It's perhaps fitting that Candice Bergen, whose career took off when she became a single mother in the sitcom "Murphy Brown," earned a second wind as Dr. Cuddy's nasty elderly mom on "House" last season. Baby boomers are moving on from child care to elder care, and she's surfing the zeitgeist with a delicious flair.
In one episode, Mere Cuddy opens up about her feelings toward Cuddy and her sister while sitting in her hospital bed. This is just after Cuddy and House have saved her from some heinous House-ish infection resulting from the metal in her hip replacement. Or something like that.
"I love you both," mom points out demurely, "but I like her more."
In a later episode, she sues Cuddy and House for saving her life.
Sure, it's a little extreme. But for women taking care of their aging parents, the er, friction that sometimes comes up can be surprising. You leave work to sit all day in the doctor's waiting room with your parent and you think she'd be grateful. But often enough, she's mad instead. (At least I hear this. It never happens with my mother.)
It's easy to feel isolated in this situation, but caring for an ornery parent is a big enough problem that there's a whole genre of literature on the topic, as I found when I wrote this post awhile back. Books range from the academic: Aging Mothers and Their Adult Daughters: A Study in Mixed Emotions to the self-help: Coping With Your Difficult Older Parent, which gets good reviews on Amazon.
Also getting good reviews on Amazon: Elder Rage: Take My Father...Please!
Roberta Satow, a New York psychoanalyst, has written extensively about dealing with difficult aging parents. Here's an interview.
Not everyone has such a hard time with his or her parents, but elder care can test even the most patient people: Chuck Ross, who writes from the Cape, writes lovingly but not sentimentally about the yin and the yang of caring for his dad at Life With Father.
Ross's posts and reader comments make you realize there are lot of other people in this soup with you. And it's cathartic, but also funny to see Bergin as the embodiment of the elderly mother from hell on network television. Sometimes it just helps to laugh at the whole darn situation.
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