For many parents, they find themselves raising their children and also taking care of their elderly parents. There is little help from the outside world and a parent’s job becomes serving others. This is hard on everyone involved and it can feel like a balancing act, or even walking a tight rope. The generation who is experiencing this more than ever is the Baby Boomers. That’s right, those in their sixties and seventies are finding themselves taking care of (sometimes) adult children and grandchildren and also caring for elderly parents. The baby boomers have their own unique sets of needs and concerns. But where can they turn to for help?


Hospice expert Melanie P. Merrimam PhD knows all too well what it is like. She has not only studied the results of illness, aging and the medical system, but she has also coined the term “the tightrope of aging” a time typically characterized by ever-steeper physical and/or mental decline. She has written an extremely informative book, Holding the Net: The Tightrope of Aging to help those in similar situations cope.


The Tightrope of Aging is not only a book to help others, it is also part memoir. She shares her story about her independent yet aging mother. For Melanie, she wanted to be sure that her mother had the best final years of her life.


“This is not the story of just one mother and her daughters. It is all of our stories—ones already lived, or ones midstream, or ones about to happen,” Ann Hood


We found this book will be a source of comfort and understanding for many. There are so many different scenarios for the baby boomer parent. They may have adult children still living there… with their children and still have the responsibility of caring for an aging parent. Other baby boomers may have thought they can enjoy their golden years, but instead are balancing with a fiercely independent parent who needs help but refuses to change their routine.


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tightrope of aging

This book follows Merriman as she finds a balance between getting the best care possible for her mother and respecting her mother’s choices, independence and autonomy. This balancing act is hard and Merriam is quite candid with the reader, providing insight, information and a good example of what being in this position is like.


It’s no secret that no one wants to be in this position or wants their aging parents in this position. There is little to no help for the caregiver child and there is a lot of hard decisions to make together with your parent or on your own. Merriam manages to do two things in this book that we have to share. First, she comforts the reader with the truth and example throughout the story. Second, all is not lost when you are in this position. There can still be beautiful experiences to be had and beautiful memories to enjoy. Merriam does not hold back as she shares some of her brightest moments and some of her “failures” or as we like to put it, learning experiences.



This book is for the baby boomer generation but we have to extend this to others as well. Some parents as young as their thirties can find this book useful if you’re caring for an elderly parent. It is good for all ages to read about. If you have gone through this and your parent has now passed on, this book can bring you some peace. You did the best you could have and you have to practice peace and forgiveness.

If you are going through this, this book is a comfort, a source of information, comfort and light for you.


If you are lucky enough that you have not gone through this yet, one day you will have to make some important decisions for a parent or loved one and it’s a good way of getting a candid approach of what could be in store.


Merriman is a positive writer, we appreciate her candor, her honesty and opening up her home and experiences to the readers. We are warmed by her dedication, her love for her Mother and still finding that balance of being a great resource for the reader while sharing her personal story. This book is a learning experience for everyone.


About Melanie Merriman

Melanie Merriman, Ph.D., has spent much of her life as a research scientist, hospice consultant, and foundation grant evaluator—driven by a passion to illuminate, understand, and find meaning. In addition to Holding the Net: Caring for My Mother on the Tightrope of Aging, she is co-author of Merriman’s Hawai‘i: The Chef, the Farmers, the Food, the Islands, a cookbook with stories about Chef Peter Merriman. Melanie and her husband Klein Merriman split their time between South Florida and Cape Cod, MA.