The Daily Nightly from NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams

About this blog

The Daily Nightly began on May 31, 2005. As Brian wrote in his first post it aims to provide a narrative of the broadcast day and a window into the editorial process at NBC Nightly News. Brian weighs in every weekday and NBC News correspondents and producers post regularly.

Brian Williams became the seventh anchor and managing editor in the history of NBC Nightly News on December 2, 2004. Read his full biography.

Practical advice about parent care

Your response to our "Trading Places" series has been extraordinary. More than 5,400 of you have sent in letters or photographs telling your own very personal stories. Others have offered advice gleaned from their own experiences caring for an aging parent.

Some of the letters are quite tender -- others have been angry. Some have been very funny -- and many, many have been heartbreaking. More than one letter has prompted many of us to pick up the phone and check in with our own parents -- those of us lucky enough to still have them around.

In reading all these stories, some common questions have emerged; when to take the keys away from an older parent who shouldn't be driving any more? How to find trustworthy help for your folks when you live hundreds of miles away? And where to turn if they need -- but you can't afford -- residential care, such as a nursing home or assisted living facility?

We've asked NBC News Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman to join us tonight with some practical advice to help answer some of these questions.

Later this afternoon, we'll post some links in our special "Trading Places" section -- resources you can use and places to go for more information on everything from Alzheimer's disease to Zoloft and other medications used to treat depression.

The most important thing to know is that in caring for an aging parent, you need not be alone. There is help out there, and in the coming months we plan to bring you more "Trading Places" stories that will show you where to find it.

Editor's note: We are still soliciting stories, photos and even video. Just click here and follow the directions to submit.

Read more from Tracey Lyons

MAIN PAGE NEXT POST Thursday lineup

Email this EMAIL THIS


My mother passed away in 1999 from complications of diabetes, she had lost her leg, her eye sight and was on dialysis three times a week. For 3 years before she passed my father and I were her caregivers, we kept her at home and made life as rewarding as we could for her. I have a brother and sister who live less than five hours away, once my Mother passed, they never again came to see my father. I had to make the decision to stop my Moms dialysis because she was facing more amputations, and she was tired. My siblings questioned my decision even after the Doctor told them she would have made the same decision. It is a decision I live with every day. Mom asked me to look after my Dad, which I gladly did. He had several mini strokes before Mom passed, after he was diagnosed with Alzheimers. Dad stayed with me for the next seven years, I moved my children and I into his house and added bedrooms and a bath on, just so he could stay in his home. He lived with us until one month before his death. Never once did my siblings come to visit and eventually stopped even calling. It was very frustrating at times because I did not know where to go for help. My dad was a marine in World War II fighting in the battle of Bougainville and Guadnacanal. I find comfort in knowing I gave him the best life I could in the last years of his. I am now very afraid for my children I do not want to put them through this.

“Help! I’m turning into my Mother” is one of my favorite keynote speeches to present. Not that we’re all becoming carbon copies of our parents, but I know that when I catch a glimpse of myself in the escalator’s mirrored walls, I wonder, “Mom, what are you doing there?”

From my experience, we Baby Boomers seldom talk openly about caring for our aging parents because it reminds us that we’re getting older…and most of us don’t want to admit we’re aging, let alone talk about it. A quarter of the Boomers are doing something they seldom talk about – taking care of an aging parent. It’s not something they planned to do. It’s not something anyone ever prepared them to do. It’s just something life gave them to do. And they’re doing it.

I call them “unexpected caregivers,” and I’ve just released a book for them through Attainment Company, a special-needs publisher based in Verona, Wisconsin. It’s “an unexpectedly activist view” (in the words of one reviewer) of a relationship that’s too often characterized as caretaking rather than caregiving.

The book is based on my work with professional caregivers as well as my own experience as primary caregiver for my mother, who died in 2002, and a grandfather. (Ironically, my husband and I moved in with my father after my mom died, thinking he would need us – and he remarried and moved out on us.)

An estimated 30 million Americans (perhaps 20 million of them Boomers) already are providing care – for free – to someone over the age of 50, but they’ve barely begun to realize how common or widespread their new role is. As they begin to look for ideas and sources of support, I believe they will find "The Unexpected Caregiver" an approachable, touching resource. Let me know; I’d be happy to help in anyway I can.

I was amazed to see the blog responses. Does anyone know of a forum for children of veterans who are suffering in the VA System?
I sent this letter below to NBC directly hoping to let them know the real story, it is sickening to this son of a veteran.

Ms. Thompson,

I would like to comment on the story shown over the weekend about "Little-known veterans benefits can really help". As my family will agree this should be a great benefit for veterans. However, if you are like my parents, it has become a nightmare of political red tape that the Department of Veterans Affairs has created. If you are a veteran and needing assistance you are stuck in a bottle neck and unable to access this benefit. My parents are both veterans, my father is a three time war veteran serving our country during WWII, the Korean conflict, and also Vietnam. My mother is also a veteran who served our country during the Korean conflict. So you would think we could tap into the VA benefits for our parents rather easily. But we have learned that the VA is nothing but red tape that causes confusion, heartache, and stress among family members.

My father is a retired Command Sergeant Major from the U.S. Army. While serving in Vietnam he like many other soldiers was exposed to Agent Orange, which has led to Multiple Myeloma bone marrow cancer. This has also led to other ailments over the years and the most recent is signs of Dementia leading to Alzheimer’s. Our mother is still living and they both live in assisted living home, but to get extra care for our father has been nothing but a nightmare. He is considered 100% service connected disabled, and according to the VA his care will be taken care of. But what does that mean, what benefits are out there? Ms. Thompson, I am here to tell you that there are no real answers. The Department of Veterans Affairs will inform you to submit a claim, submit a claim, and submit a claim. Then the claim gets lossed in a pile of paperwork and it can take months if not years to get assistance.

I have talked to the Dept of Veterans Affairs many times, and they are always checking on things. The latest news I have is that my father has three active claims with the VA and those have now caused a bottle neck. One of those claims is for Aid and Assistance which you reported on in your story. We need that Assistance to help pay for our fathers care, but we can't get any help from the VA to cancel old claims so that his Aid and Assistance claim will go through. So my parents are paying for my fathers care out of their savings. This last week has found our dad in the hospital very ill, and the discussion of the health staff is that he will more than likely need to go into full time nursing care home. We need to get his care paid for. So now we are tapping into Medicare benefits and their savings until we can resolve the bottle neck within the VA system.

I know there are other veterans out there with similar problems. It would be nice to see a follow up on this story so that the American people know what red tape our Veterans who have made sacrifices for their country are now being faced with.

Your article on the VA benefits painted a great picture. But our experience in trying to get the VA benefits for our father has been anything but great. We are now approaching two years trying to get these benefits and have just been told it could be an additional 4-6 months or more. Our father has dementia, when we took him to the VA Hospital for the required physical, it focused on physical impairments, not mental. My brother had to pull the attending physician aside to try to stress that his impairment was due to dementia and she said she would "try" to incorporate it into her report. I would stress to people filling out the paperwork to try to have accurate completion of the forms and keep copies, documentation. We've been fortunate to have someone help us through this exhausting process.

In watching the news about little known help available for veterans, I must add my two cents. Last Fall, a letter from the VA arrived at my parents house addressed to my Dad (a WWII Veteran). It was a notice that he could receive a free flu shot at the local VA hospital on a certain day. My parents had never received this letter before and so we always got flu shots at our doctor or at the local pharmacy.
Sadly, my Dad had passed away earlier in the year(I had sent my story to you about our nightmare ride in a nursing home). I called the telephone number on the VA letter and asked if my Mom (married 62 years to my Dad until his death) could instead receive her free flu shot at the VA. I was told a flat "no", that it was just for my Dad. This struck me rather odd.
I called the offices of my local congressperson and Senator just to let them in on my experience with the VA's free flu shot offer. That's about as far as it went; from my mouth to their office help, although they did agree it was odd to them, too. Perhaps the VA can save a stamp next Fall and not send another free flu shot announcement.

My mom is 97..pretty healthy except for terrible pain in her legs. She now walks, not too happily, with a walker, falls now and then, has an incredibly positive
attitude, refuses to move to the west coast, which is where I, her only living child, lives. I hired a caregiver, against her wishes, who has turned out to be a god-send, who has somehow won over moms trust and point is thanks for your coverage, I now know I'm not alone...somany of us have the same challenges and opportunities facing our aging parents..Can you do a piece on the guilt suffered by absentee children whose parents refuse, and I understand and agree with their decision, to not change their environment?
Thanks for all you do.

I have never been so overwhelmed in my life. My father, a black airforce veteran died 3 years ago. He won 7 bronze stars while serving in Italy. My father never told us that he had won anything while in the service. I'm sure you hear a lot of that from that generation.

My father died from the complications of diabetes and dementia. He was also on dialysis from kidney failure. I took care of both of my parents for the last 7 months of his life. What made it so hard was that my mother had broken her leg in July of 2002 and then again in January of 2003 and I had to do everything for her, too.

After my father died, my mother started to show signs of dementia too. She broke her ankel one more time and now she cannot walk without my assistance.

From your newscast, I just found out about assistance to veterans and their wives. Money won't make my mother's condition any easier but it will help smooth out the sharp corners of caring for a parent.

This is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
Why do we have to hunt for these benefits for people who gave their lives to serve America.

Brian, what a great batch of stories, thanks for personalizing it with your own folks! Dr. Nancy Snyderman is a terrific addition, she is very knowledgable and appears very" down to earth". My question/comment has to do with aging parents mental health, not senility or alzheimers. both of my parents have suffered for years with mental illness. will this get worse as they age, physical ailments do? will they have options for living available to them. there are alot of products and services for seniors who have difficulty getting around or completing ADL's. is this help for seniors with mental illness?

We watched the news tonight and did not get the name of benefit for veterans and spouses of war that will help pay for medical. My father is 80 years old and my mother is 80 and in a nursing home with Alzheimers. Would like to know more about it. Thank-You

I am very glad to have been a care taker of my both parents.They got very sick,and I didn't want to put them in a nursing home,as I think most are un desirable.They needed alot of care.Hospice is a great center for people to use,but not all people need that kind of care.So I think if people can care for there own it helps your parents out a great deal.

Thank You
Joan Newell
West Spfd.Mass

I am proud to be on a team of caregivers where daily we discuss how we can make a difference in the lives of elderly people or just people in general that need our help. In our team meetings we discuss ways we can reach out to these people and then make plans to do so. Most of these people are not residents in our facility but individuals in the community . We have recently reached out to a family in need of just morale support as well as help to make financial arrangements. The son lives in Colorado and his mother in Kansas. He is here visiting for only a few days and needs to get Medicaid arrangements made. If you have ever filled out a Medicaid application its very overwhelming. One of our team players made the time to sit with the son and assist him in filling it out. The son was so grateful for this and all it cost was a little time. Everyday there are things like this that we can do for our friends, neighbors, and even strangers to make a difference in other peoples lives. I am so glad that I have an opportunity to work with people that do this and its my hope that others will see what our team is doing and do some of it themselves. It only takes a warm heart and a smile to make someone elses day special and its feels so...good to do it!

I am taking care of my mother right now. She is 72 years old and her health is not that good. My father passed away on Nov. 4th and I took care of him also. At the time he was alive I was the only one out of 5 children to visit them,do their errands,going to the store for them ect..So when he passed away I had to give up my Apt. I move in with my mom and be the care giver. I am not mad that I have to do this. Sometimes I think what should I do to make it better for my mother,It is only me. I don't get help from my brothers or sisters. I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters and they live closed by. They don't call or come by to see her. Sometimes I have to leave work to be with here. I sitter dose come here 3 days a week to be with her while I am at work. I lie in bed at night and pray that someone or somthing can help me make this a better life for my mother. I don't have alot of money and my mother gets only ss,which is nothing at all.All in all it is just me and mom and no help from family. My mothers name is Barbara Buck and my name is Robert. Like they say; There is always one in the family who will do the right thing. I hope this is posted and mention on the news. Great for the ones that talk and help with their parents and not so great for the ones who don't....sad,sad,sad.


I am an outreach coordinator in a long term care facility, and I see the frustration, anger, feelings of hopelessness on a daily basis it is not an uncommon thing among children, grandchildren and caregivers. I applaud NBC's efforts to help educate the viewers on such a difficult issue, part of my Job Description is to act as a liason to help them make these difficult desicions when they have no where else to turn. It is difficult for them to place their loved one in the care of strangers, especially with the negative media on the few homes that provide inadequate care, those homes are out there, but, there are several good homes that provide top quality care and try to treat the residents as their own family, the facility I work in is one of those facilities, we make every effort to provide activities the will meet the needs of our residents, including fishing trips, outings to the zoo, bingo everyday at the request of our residents, we have a garden for those who loved to garden, our residents are allowed the freedom to do the things they would do if they were at home. Once again I applaud NBC for showing film of homes like the one in Minnesota, that believe that interaction is one of the best medicines you can give to an alzheimer resident, and listening to their stories and trying let them live in their own reality is very commendable. My Father - Law began to have memory issues in his late 60's and with in a year was in the second stage of Alzheimers it was very frustrating and confusing at times because you didn't know if what he was saying was true or just a figment of his imagination, we finally got to the point where we had to take away the keys to his truck, because he had went on a 40 mile journey and no one knew where he had went, when he got home he had told us of the visit he had with people he knew that had been dead for 15 to 20 years. Once again i cannot say enough how great it is for NBC to be airing this series

Since this topic has obviously touched many, many people, I agree that you should take some of the stories and put them into a special hour show or special Dateline--add some real experts as well. You can do a good public service for everyone.

Nancy Snyderman is not an expert in this field. She is giving medical, health and nursing advice that she isn't qualified to offer. That said, anything she does give under her MD title is fair fodder for her to be held to the medical standard of practice - as well as assuming full medical and legal liability.

I'm not so worried right now about my parents. They are in excellent health at 83 and 77 and my father was lucky enough to have worked for a large company in the time when a corporation's word was good. He has a good pension and they are very comfortable, living in a paid for condo, able to golf every summer and travel when they wish. I'm more worried for my children who may have to take care of my husband and I because employers and the government aren't going to be "there" for us when we need it. Our only options are luck and long term insurance. Luck isn't an easy find - lotteries, and 401k's are about equal, and we don't have the money to pay for long term insurance. We're lucky to be able to get from paycheck to paycheck now. That's not fair to our children, so, we'll probably work until we drop and never get to enjoy our grandchildren. Great!

Why aren't you giving this important topic the airtime it deserves? Why are you forcing it to fit in a 3-5 minute segment within the evening news instead of giving it the hour it deserves? My 88 year old mother recently died: it taught me a lot ... but it's something I'd rather not get good at.

Comments for this entry have been closed


Trackbacks are links to weblogs that reference this post. Like comments, trackbacks do not appear until approved by us. The trackback URL for this post is: