Books & Literature

Book Review: Avoiding the Ageing Parent Trap, by Brian Herd

NON-FICTION: Informative and insightful, this is the essential family guide to preparing for ageing parents.

Good reading--but only half of it.

Want to learn from one of Australia’s leading elder care lawyers? In Avoiding the Ageing Parent Trap, we hear from lawyer Brian Herd. With almost four decades of experience in life planning for older people, and a regular speaker in the areas of elder law, retirement planning, disability and aged care, Herd’s book will make you rethink elder care planning.

There are 13 chapters in this book, so it is easy to find what you need. Alternatively, if you are just starting out in planning for the future, you can read from beginning to end. The book is geared towards adult children, and not parents. If condensed, the key message is the earlier you plan the better, as careful effective planning will alleviate all potential problems that could arise going forward.

The first five chapters did very little to engage me as a reader, as much of it is information that you would already know. For example, Chapter Three talks about the human side of relationships and lists the seven classes of parental structures that exist (eg. ‘biological parents married once’, ‘biological parents married more than once’, etc.). Although the author talks about the issues these varying structures pose, they are facts, not contextualised, and therefore feel irrelevant.

Similarly, Chapter Four talks about parent personalities while Chapter Five talks about ‘you and your siblings’. To me, how well your family gets along, or how they do not—well, it is obvious as to how parent/child/sibling conflict would get in the way of planning. Unless you are incredibly young, have never watched the news, and not heard of any family issues amongst your networks, the multiple cases he uses just come across as generic ‘breaking news’ reports.

In some ways, the first five chapters contain a barrage of psychological analysis, none of which reflects the ‘essential information and solutions’ promised in the title. If, like me, you found these sections boring, persist with reading or skip to Chapter Six, as then it becomes valuable reading. 

Admittedly, there are two things that are valid points in those first few chapters; how the ‘dementia’ factor can be a game-changer and the ‘responsibility’ factor. As a child, you are likely to bear full responsibility if your parent is unmarried/alone and this is whether your parent wants you to or not. However, these two pertinent points are again covered in greater detail later in the book.

As an adult child, if your parents are not interested in planning for the future, it is time to make them interested. After all, it is not just about inheritances. It is about passwords, Advanced Care Directives, Voluntary Assisted Dying, loss of cognitive ability, Power of Attorneys, Elder Abuse, the Law of Family, and retirement villages versus Ageing in Place. 

Does everyone think of these when going through elder planning? It is not just about money; there is also a chapter on sexual expression. With laws around sexual consent currently under review, are you aware how this affects a parent with impaired cognition? If not, and if many of the other terms above are unfamiliar to you, then it is high time to learn the true scope that good elder planning entails.

Reviewed by Rebecca Wu

Distributed by: Simon & Schuster
Released: 3 March 2021
RRP: $29.99

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