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Book Review: How Not To Tear Your Family Apart

Carroll Golden’s How Not To Tear Your Family Apart: 3 Simple Steps to Start Critical Conversations and Help Your Family and Aging Parents Plan a Financially Stable Future achieves levels of both specificity and universality which are rare and much needed in the long term care and planning spaces. Throughout this guide, Golden follows the Jones family. The Jones family spans four generations, and throughout her book, Golden precisely, and in valuable detail, discusses the nuances, benefits and challenges of decision-making across generations. Much of the Jones’ story centers in Jodi’s experience. Jodi faces great caregiving responsibility as a member of the sandwich generation – with both children and parents in need of her support. Jodi moves through Golden’s three planning and preparation steps for aging, both for her parents as well as for herself and her husband, Jackson:


Step one: Create a Care Guide

The care guide, as recommended by Golden, contains the documents and information an individual would want to have available for medical professionals in case of emergency. This guide could include emergency contact information, an updated list of medications, insurance and financial documentation, a will, advanced directive, and any additional documents which would be relevant to your care.

Step two: Gather a Care Squad

This step involves assignment of responsibility in caring for loved ones. These assignments are largely based on availability and skill set and serve to support both primary caregivers and the recipients of needed care. The care squad represents a more in-depth support system and protects a single caregiver from becoming overwhelmed, while also ensuring that all aspects of care, such as physical, financial, and emotional support are covered.

Step three: Establish a Care Planning Team (CPT)

Much of the work of the CPT centers in research. Once some or all members understand the current financial state of the care recipients, the CPT can go to work researching and understanding factors such as public programs supporting care and finances with age (e.g. Social Security benefits, Medicare, Medicaid), costs and funding options for Long-Term Care (e.g. insurance options, self-funding) and how different options align with the goals individuals have for their future.


How Not To Tear Your Family Apart provides immense detail for every aspect of the planning process. Golden conveys a deep understanding of the issues that too often arise within families with aging relatives. She provides both clear and actionable advice, along with a myriad of resources which can serve as a starting point for understanding both your current state of preparedness and where to go from there. The Jones’ family story is one familiar to many and demonstrates how family engagement and communication is central to successful, goal-aligned aging.