When Your Parent Becomes Your Child by Ken Abraham

It’s hard enough to be a good child to your parents.  How do those of us with aging parents transition into a parental, care-taking role?  Answering that question by example rather than prescription, When Your Parent Becomes Your Child is the poignant memoir of Ken Abraham’s journey alongside his mother as she slipped irretrievably into dementia.  He asks the question many of us will face: “How is it possible to lose a loved one while they are still living?”  From the first signs of Minnie Abraham’s disease, which were dismissed as the idiosyncrasies of aging, to her final days in hospice care, her family struggled to help while juggling their own lives and responsibilities.  This book’s eminently readable prose is an invitation to share an honest journey of grief, faith and hope.

Abraham has co-authored a number of books, including One Soldier’s Story with Bob Dole and Let’s Roll with Lisa Beamer.  Those who appreciate his treatment of modern Christian heroes will be touched by his sympathetic portrayal of his own mother.  It was encouraging to read that, although she could no longer maintain her own dignity and sometimes forgot her own children, her faith remained strong to the end.

Although Abraham shares many of his struggles in the face of this merciless disease, there were also questions he left unanswered.  For example, how do we obey the fourth commandment to honor our parents when their moral and emotional filters have deteriorated?  Although he laments the financial and practical quandaries of the graduated care system, he skirts the spiritual questions behind institutional versus in-home care. However, those omissions are minor in the context of his practical and dynamic narrative.

I read this book in two days, laughing and crying with the Abraham family all along the way.  Ken is a transparent and loving son, but my special admiration goes to  his extraordinary wife, Lisa, who changed her mother-in-law’s diapers.  Her unconditional love for a confused and sometimes difficult woman was a bright mirror of Christ’s grace.  Minnie Abraham brought God glory in her life as a Christian musician, but through her son’s story-telling, she was extraordinarily able to bring God glory in her faithful struggle with dementia.  I hope she knows that now and is singing her gratitude to Jesus in person


Would you like this book?  Share a quick story about caring for an elderly parent in the comments below (your story or one you’ve observed).  I’ll pick one response and send the book to that person within two weeks.

8 thoughts on “When Your Parent Becomes Your Child by Ken Abraham

  1. Hi Louise,

    Nice book review! I just finished an email about my dad to the kids of both sides. We are working together in the mild struggle.

    Hope you have had a good week. I realized that it was Andrew’s birthday recently. I continue to pray for him along with my two. God is so gracious to all of us. How can I be praying for you?

    Love, Ann

  2. I know I am just beginning the journey into “uncharted, caring for aging parents” waters. I find myself wanting to put on the life vest, hold my breath, brace myself for the plunge. Yet, I am encouraged to look full force into what may become my own journey sooner rather than later. That is probably the hardest part… looking into the mirror and accurately seeing my own neediness and dependence upon my Lord as I age.

  3. My maternal grandmother was a devoted follower of Jesus and perhaps the only Christian I really knew in my family. She lived simply, honestly and humbly before God. She was in great health for the bulk of her life. However, she declined in her final 5 years. My mother, who was never particularly close to her mother, was tasked with caring for her. My mother’s only sister who was close with their mother had died at age 42. My mother related a time she had to accompany my grandmother to the hospital for care. My grandmother looked over at my mother and said, “Thank you, whoever you are.” She was grateful to the end.

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