Tuesday, August 31, 2004

You wouldn't expect a book called Is Your Parent In Good Hands?: Protecting Your Aging Parent from Financial Abuse and Neglect to be so suspenseful that I had trouble putting it down. But it was, and the reason why was that in this book, author Edward J. Carnot tells the story of the longtime housekeeper-turned-caretaker who did everything she could to get money out of Carnot's father, and the older man's refusal to accept that anything was wrong, even when presented with the record of the two or three paychecks a week that the forgetful senior citizen had been signing for her. The difficulty Carnot and his sister had with their father's situation is extremely well expressed and will resonate with everyone who has an older relative whose desire for independence might lead to such difficulties -- despite the fact that my grandfather's preferred style of independence means that he would never accept any outside caregiver for himself or my grandmother, I can certainly see how problems can develop for them.

Carnot uses each event in his own family story to go through some issue that concerns seniors and their families: powers of attorney and other legal setups, mental/emotional health for both the senior and family members, working with officials such as police or social services, working with medical professionals, retirement communities/assisted living facilities/nursing homes (and the differences in those categories), home care, and others. Since Carnot has practiced law for decades, he has professional experience as well as personal in several of these fields. It's both an easy and interesting book to read and a useful overview of things adult children might want to plan for with their elderly parents, particularly as the events-gone-wrong in Carnot's family give a cautionary tale. I got the book from the library, but I am thinking of actually buying a copy for my mother because of our family's concern about my grandparents living by themselves.

Monday, August 23, 2004

There aren't a lot of mystery novels told from the viewpoint of a sock monkey. (Particularly not murder mysteries that stem from bodies being pulled out of New York City waterways by divers.) In fact, most mysteries are a lot more straighforwardly told than Penn Jillette's Sock. And that's why most mysteries are forgettable, quick reads that often disappoint. Since Penn Jillette is better known as half of the magic duo Penn and Teller, perhaps his interesting way of telling the story comes from his experience in misdirecting and adding some flair to his stage actions. But he's a fascinating writer; though Sock was not a difficult read, neither was it one of those zoom-through-in-the-waiting-area kind of mysteries. The sock monkey ("Dickie") provides an unusual view of his owner ("Little Fool"), and his hairdresser friend Tommy, as they try to figure out what happened to get "Little Fool's" ex-girlfriend murdered and tossed into the water, with many digressions into popular culture (there's even a list of songs and such referenced in the book at belm.com/sock, how people relate, and the meaning of life. The end does get a little preachy, I felt, but not preachy in a Christian way -- in fact, what the Fool and Dickie preach is a doctrine of atheism which even puts down agnostics as avoiding the real questions. Despite my own (agnostic) beliefs being put down in that way, I enjoyed the book.