I was recently packing up my bookshelf for a move and re-encountered many of the classic resources I find myself recommending to caregivers again and again. These books are always on my "must read books for caregivers" list.
I have selected four of my favorites to share with you. Two of my recommendations are novels and the other two are non-fiction. Enjoy this summer reading list for caregivers!
29, by Adena Halpern: This book tells the story of three generations of women – a grandmother, her daughter and her granddaughter. The 75-year-old grandmother identifies more with her 29-year-old granddaughter and this is the story of how she wishes to be 29 again for just one day. As the old adage goes, be careful what you wish for! This grandma has tried everything to stay young, and her "young for a day" adventure causes her to question nearly everything about the life she has chosen. She asks her granddaughter to be her guide for her special day while, at the same time, her own daughter and best friend are frantically looking for her when they can't find her. All of these women discover important things about one another and their family relationships. Through the vehicle of a novel, Ms. Halpern encourages us to question and consider our assumptions about growing older, the fountain of youth, and family relationships. You will likely laugh out loud and that's always a good thing for caregivers!
Still Alice, by Lisa Genova: Unlike 29, this novel is a difficult emotional read because it chronicles many of the tough issues surrounding Alzheimer's disease. It follows a 50-year-old Harvard professor as she discovers she is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's disease and makes every attempt to live in the moment. What I really find helpful for caregivers about this book is that it tells the story of dementia from the standpoint of the person living with the disease. While the work certainly incorporates the experiences of the husband, grown children, and colleagues of the protagonist, the unique value is that it allows us to feel what the individuals with Alzheimer's is feeling. The author is herself a Ph.D. neuroscientist, so the work rings very true from a clinical and scientific standpoint as well.
How to Say it to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders, by David Solie: This work was published nearly a decade ago and was originally intended for professionals in the senior services field. But I have often also recommended it to family members. The main message of this very helpful and practical guide is that older adults must balance the desire to maintain control of their world with the desire to control their legacy, how the world will remember them. As caregivers, it is helpful for us to gain a good understanding of this dichotomy and to learn to use it as a guide for navigating the challenges of caring for a loved one.
Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We'd Rather Avoid, by Charlie Hudson: This is a relatively new addition to the caregiver's library. There are two central themes to Ms. Hudson's work: first, she stresses the importance of planning ahead for the aging process, and properly communicating those plans to your family. Her second core point is that articulating your personal definition of quality of life is something to do earlier rather than later. This enables you to develop a strategy for ensuring that you can achieve the quality of life as you get older. It can also help you to share your thoughts and feelings about this important topic to those who love you and who will be your decision-makers and caregivers when the time comes. While the first section of the book covers many important topics related to aging and death, it does so with broad strokes and a light touch. It will be especially helpful for "newbies"—those at the very beginning of their journey into caregiving or aging. The unique aspect of Your Room at the End is its second section, which focuses on enhancing and sustaining quality of life. In this section, Ms. Hudson offers many innovative and creative ideas, along with practical suggestions. I particularly enjoyed the sections on building or reinventing your space and practical pets. These topics receive relatively little coverage in compendiums on aging and end of life issues.
While there is no shortage of advice and counsel for caregivers, I find these four works each provide a varied and important perspective. I hope you will enjoy them, and I'd love for you to share your feedback.
Enjoy your summer!