Books & Literature

Book Review: We Need to Talk About Mum and Dad, by Jean Kittson

SELF-HELP: All the essential information you’ll need (and more) to confidently manage the care of your ageing parents.

A must-have for anyone tasked with supporting the wellbeing, physical and financial care of a loved one.

You might not think a book about managing the money, medical decisions and living arrangements of one’s elderly relatives could be a page-turner, but you’d be wrong. In We Need to Talk About Mum and Dad, author Jean Kittson has created a comprehensive guide to parenting our ageing parents that is interesting, accessible and humorous, as well as extremely useful.

Aged care in Australia is in crisis. Our ageing population requires increasing levels of support and many desperate families are struggling to locate the type of care they need at the time when it’s most needed. To complicate matters even further, there’s the baffling bureaucracy to deal with. (It’s not necessary to be a user of services such as Centrelink or the NDIS to have some sense of the issues encountered when navigating the complex online systems of government departments).

Much as we might like to put our heads in the sand, it’s becoming obvious that those of us who will take on the role of caring for older family members must be prepared much further in advance than we probably realise. Don’t know where to start? You’re in luck—We Need to Talk About Mum and Dad contains the answers to the key questions that are likely to keep you awake at night. Kittson helps readers identify ‘what you don’t know that you don’t know’, even if you’ve had some prior experience in finding your way through the maze of available services.

Multi-talented performer and scriptwriter Jean Kittson is well known to Australian audiences for her work on television and radio, including appearances on comedy debates and hit shows like The Big Gig and Good News Week. She’s been a regular magazine columnist, published several books and appeared on stage and in film. In We Need to Talk About Mum and Dad she draws on the dilemmas she faced when caring for her own parents as they entered their nineties.

What makes the book so accessible are the personal anecdotes from Kittson’s own experiences and the experiences of her friends, as well as the cartoons from her husband, Australian cartoonist, satirist and performer Patrick Cook; these stories and images personalise the content and keep the reader from sinking under the weight of the responsibility of taking charge of one’s own family.

There’s so much in this book. It’s enormously valuable to have all of this information presented in one resource and arranged so coherently—much better than researching alone and getting lost down the internet rabbit hole! It’s packed with practical details and illuminating examples, in chapters covering what to expect, how to stay organised while dealing with financial and health matters. As well as the expected exploration of the essentials such as legal documents and procedures for accessing aged care services, Kittson tackles the difficult topics, like how to bring up a conversation about end-of-life wishes, elder abuse, managing hospital admissions and palliative care.

We Need to Talk About Mum and Dad is full of key takeaways and top tips and is a must-have for anyone tasked with supporting the wellbeing, physical and financial care of a loved one.

Reviewed by Jo Vabolis
Twitter: @JoVabolis

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Released: March 2020
RRP: $34.99 trade paperback, $12.99 eBook

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