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Adelson, M.J. (2000). Dealing with Aging Parents. J. Clin. Psychoanal., 9(1):127-136.

(2000). Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis, 9(1):127-136

Dealing with Aging Parents

Dr. Margery J. Adelson, Ph.D.

Steadily, inexorably, America ages. We are not usually aware of it unless we have a specific interest, e.g., in geriatrics, in population studies, or unless some writing or event brings it to mind. As it happens, I have before me a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal, which carries a special section on retirement. It is 20 pages long, almost all of it text, and most of that not on finance or economics (as we might suppose, given the venue) but on matters relating to aging more generally—living together as against remarriage, or how a judge fell into depression after retirement and how he recovered.

To judge from an informal census of my colleagues, they do not commonly deal with older patients either in private practice or in their work at the clinical agencies (which abound in a university community like Ann Arbor and its environs). However, that has begun to change and will continue to do so for several reasons. As psychotherapy becomes a more conventional activity—less outre shall we say—it recruits a wider range of patients. And as it becomes more commonplace, we find that some will return in later years as new problems arise in their lives. One problem we have begun to see is how to deal with aging parents, and the often unexpected problems they present, particularly so when parents undergo unexpected physical or emotional crises. What follows is one revealing example. I hope to show how the knowledge of a patient's psychodynamics acquired during an earlier therapy helped us to understand and deal with the hitherto latent problems her mother showed.

I first saw Carol when she was 34 years old. She was a woman not commonly found in the therapeutic practices in Ann Arbor—a

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