CYMA CHATS with Barbara Kaplan and Carol Teplin, authors of the new book: The Unheard Voice of the Aging Parent (Conflicts and Ambivalence in Intergenerational Relationships).
Q: Your book focuses on the adult/older parent relationship and methods to heal intergenerational conflicts. However, it’s interesting to note that your viewpoint is not from the adult, but rather from the elderly parent. What prompted you to write this book from this perspective?
A: We found that the current literature did not reflect the elderly parent’s voice although there was a multitude of information about the “sandwich generation” and “caregivers” voice. From our clinical experience, we gathered a wealth of information from that missing, unheard voice of the aging parent and we wanted to share that with readers and the professional community.
Q: Who are you in this book (the adult or the elderly parent)?
A: Barbara identifies with the voice of the middle aged child as she was a caregiver for an elderly parent. Carol identifies with being both the former caregiver of her elderly parent and now, a senior parent of middle aged children.
Q: In your private practice, what therapeutic techniques do you employ?
A: We use everything we talked about in the book from creative art therapy, more traditional verbal therapy, support groups, poetry, family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, reminiscent therapy (in which we engage the patient through use of photos and the memories they conjure) and assertiveness training.
Q: What other therapeutic methods can be utilized to help heal deeply ingrained familial wounds?
A: We would like to think we covered a wide range of approaches to therapy in our work with seniors but of course, there are always other ways of treating and looking at the family, along with many schools and theories of psychology that can be implemented. Whatever the chosen approach however, we believe it is of utmost importance that a therapist enjoys working with any given population/age group
Q: In an aging population already often struggling with physical issues, do you find that uncovering unresolved emotional issues can be hazardous to an older individual’s health?
A: As experienced clinicians, we know from our training when to delve into difficult emotional issues and when not to. Sometimes it is more therapeutic to support the healthy part of the client and not uncover emotional issues or open old wounds. We always keep in mind never to compromise the client’s health.
Q: What do you hope can be gained by writing this book?
A: We gained a sense of accomplishment from working together and sharing our work experiences with the elderly. We also gained a lot from our patients (i.e. understanding how they feel and what this age group struggles most with) and we hope the book reflects the wisdom they have so generously taught us.
Q: As adults have their children at a later age, it is often the younger adults who must take care of their (much) older parents. As this trend continues, what do you suggest that families do to make this “sandwich generation” more comfortable?
A: While the sandwich generation is not our main emphasis, we do think it was important to acknowledge that the roles they play can be difficult and riddled with conflict as well and burdensome at times. Our suggestion is that they network with others in the same situation so that they can share their feelings and learn how others are handling their similar situations. The internet makes that a lot easier today as evidenced by this exchange with you.
Q: New older mothers already face many new challenges. As caretakers of the generations on both sides, what do you suggest for these already burdened mothers?
A: In addition to networking, we suggest support groups, church/temple groups, organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Foundation, workshops, classes, therapy, and reading the current literature.
Q: Caring for the elderly often seems to come much easier in some other cultures and societies. Why does it seem to be so difficult in our society?
A: We believe that many American caretakers are on physical, mental and emotional overload. We have read that Asian cultures revere the elderly, however we would not underestimate the American caretakers (mostly women) in their roles. We, as clinicians have been witness to how these caretakers care for, support and nurture the elderly in their families. Many women, including us, have experienced not only the difficult side of caretaking but also the joy and satisfaction it brings.
Dr. Barbara Kaplan has been in the field of psychotherapy for 30 years and is a practicing licensed Clinical Psychologist. She currently works in private practice in Great Neck, NY with a wide range of ages and also as a consultant in Port Washington, NY with seniors. Dr. Kaplan earned a fellowship from the American Institute of Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis in 1987 and certification in substance abuse counseling in 1999. She runs private workshops on such topics as Assertiveness Training, Single Parenthood, and Communication between Men and Women. Her research interests include patient self-disclosure in therapy and relationships between adult children and aging parents. She can be reached at BarbaraMKaplan@gmail.com.
Carol M. Teplin, B.S., M.P.S is a clinical mental health worker for the past 15 years, with specializations in alcohol, food and drug addictions. She is currently a director at Healing Process Workshops, Inc., working with 12 step clients to facilitate recovery from addictions. She has been a licensed mental health counselor in New York State since 2006. Carol runs seminars and weekend retreats for women in recovery through “Safe Place” and works as a consultant in Lynbrook, with senior men and women to help enhance their memory. Her contact information is