State of Mind with Debra Sloss
State of Mind with Debra Sloss
Caring for Aging and Dying Parents

Episode #37: More than one in six Americans are currently providing care to someone age 50 or older. Most of these caregivers are women, and this trend is expected to persist as one of the largest demographic groups–baby boomers–continue to age. Thus, many of us will find ourselves in the role of caregiver for an older adult. Under any conditions, caregiving for an aging and dying parent can be a challenging task and difficult to balance with raising children and meeting work and other family commitments. Caregiving is made ever more difficult when relationships are conflicted. Yet the majority of those who have helped care for an aging parent ultimately report it as rewarding and meaningful. In this episode we’re joined by award-winning author, Laura Davis, who has a new memoir, “The Burning Light of Two Stars,” about reconciling her strained relationship with her mother as she cares for her through her dementia and death. We are also joined by Chief Medical Officer at Hospice of Santa Cruz County and palliative care specialist, Dr. Karl Segnitz, who discusses ways families can navigate these end-of-life challenges and find needed support.

Broadcast: 12/5/21

Special thanks  to Jeanne Baldzikowski for audio production, to Jennifer Young for research and outreach, and to Izzy Weisz for marketing and social media. And thanks to acoustic guitarist Adrian Legg for composing, performing and donating the use of our theme music.

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The Burning Light of Two Stars – Laura’s memoir tells the story of her embattled relationship with her mother, their determination to love one another, and the dramatic and surprising collision course they ended up on at the end of her mother’s life. This story honestly explores end-of-life choices and the challenges facing caregivers, including what it takes to care for a family member who betrayed you in the past. You can read the first five chapters for free here.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (2017) –An exploration of aging, death, and the medical profession’s mishandling of both. This book is not just about dying and the limits of medicine but about living to the last with autonomy, dignity, and joy.

Local Organizations
The Alzheimer’s Association/Norcal Chapter
Offers an Early Memory Loss Support Group provided tremendous support, practical guidance and valuable shared information to our show guest Laura, as her mother’s caregiver and for her mother living with memory loss. Pre-screening is required prior to enrollment. Phone: 800-272-3900.

Hospice of Santa Cruz County – Hospice care is available to people with all types of serious illness that cannot be cured. They provide grief support, pediatric care, transition and palliative care, hospice care, community education and more. They have multidisciplinary teams to provide support for medical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Phone: 831-430-3000.

Senior Network Services – Publishes an invaluable guide of senior resources in Santa Cruz County. They can also consult and advise regarding services and resources for seniors in Santa Cruz County.

Family Service Agency (FSA) of the Central Coast – A dedicated underwriter of State of Mind radio program and podcast, provides resources, support, and counseling services to adults and children.  The Senior Outreach Program also serves older adults by offering peer counseling in English or Spanish in their home or in one of the many peer support groups. Ageless Art Program and I-You Venture bring art, adventure, and companionship to residential care facilities.  FSA Counseling Offices offer Medi-Cal, Medicare, and low-cost, sliding-scale services in downtown Santa Cruz 831-423-9444 x200 and in Soquel 831-346-6767 x200.

Del Mar Caregiver Support –  A program of Health Projects Center, dedicates their attention and service to caregivers, advocating for public recognition of their worth and value to society while providing low- or no-cost consultations, education, support groups, and respite to caregivers in Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito counties.

Pocket Talker –This amazing device enabled our show guest Laura’s elderly mother to hear again when her dementia and continuing decline made it impossible for her to use hearing aids.

Death Dialogues
– A podcast out of New Zealand that talks openly and honestly about end-of-life, death, caring for the dying, and grief and features many different experiences of these life events and how all are valuable.

National Organizations:
Family Caregivers Alliance  – Provides services to family caregivers of adults with physical and cognitive impairments, such as Parkinson’s, stroke, Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. Services include assessment, care planning, direct care skills, wellness programs, respite services, and legal/financial consultation vouchers. Offers support groups, classes, resources and events for caregivers and the people who receive their care. Ongoing support available, also now on a digital service platform. FCA is a longtime advocate for caregivers in the areas of policy, health and social system development, research, and public awareness, on the state, national and international levels.

AARP Resources to Help CaregiversA rich source of educational articles and information to help support caregivers.

The National Alliance for Caregiving – Dedicated to improving quality of life for friend and family caregivers and those in their care, by advancing research, advocacy, and innovation. Provides research, advocacy and information on resources on caregiving.

Contact Guests
Laura Davis, Author – Learn about Laura’s writing classes, workshops and retreats at her website.

Karl Segnitz, MD
Hospice of Santa Cruz County
Email: Phone: 831.430.3000