Caregivers often feel that there aren’t enough resources available on how to provide quality care for their loved ones while also balancing work, relationships and self-care. The truth is that there are a few excellent books out there, it just comes down to weeding out the ones that are truly informative and meaningful.
Every caregiver knows that their role is both physically and emotionally challenging, but a worthwhile book doesn’t harp on these facts. Instead, it should provide constructive ideas for improving your care plan, seeking respite, communicating with your care team, managing your emotions in a healthy way and understanding other people’s unique perspectives.
In preparation for a move, I recently packed up my bookshelves and rediscovered many of the classic resources I have recommended to caregivers again and again over the years. These books are always on my “must-read books for caregivers” list.
If you're looking for a new perspective on aging, tips for communicating with elders, advice on setting boundaries or valuable insights on dementia care, pick up one of these acclaimed books for caregivers.
Must-Read Books for Caregivers
29: A Novel, by Adena Halpern
This book tells the story of three generations of women: Ellie, a 75-year-old grandmother, her 55-year-old daughter Barbara and her 29-year-old granddaughter Lucy. Ellie strives to remain physically and mentally young, so she feels she has more in common with Lucy than her own daughter. On her 75th birthday, Ellie wishes to be 29 again for just one day as she blows out her candles. As the adage goes, be careful what you wish for!
The ensuing “young for a day” adventure causes Ellie to question nearly all the choices she has made throughout her life. She asks her granddaughter to be her guide on her special day while Barbara and her best friend frantically search for a “missing” Ellie. The day’s humorous debacles lead these women to discover important things about one another and their relationships. Halpern encourages readers to question their assumptions about youth, aging and family dynamics. You will likely laugh out loud, and that’s always therapeutic for caregivers!
Still Alice, by Lisa Genova, Ph.D.
Unlike 29, this novel is a difficult and emotional read because it chronicles many of the tough issues surrounding Alzheimer’s disease. Main character Alice Howland is a 50-year-old Harvard professor who has built a successful career and family life, but everything changes when she is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
What I find helpful about this book is that it tells the story of dementia from the perspective of the person living with the disease. While this novel incorporates the experiences of Alice’s husband, grown children and colleagues, the unique value is that it provides a rare glimpse into the feelings and attitudes of those who have been diagnosed with dementia. Genova holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience, so the work rings very true from both clinical and scientific standpoints as well.
How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders, by David Solie, M.S., PA
Published in 2014, this work was originally intended for professionals in the elder care field, but I have often recommended it to family caregivers. The main message of this practical guide is that older adults must balance the desire to maintain control of their world with the desire to control their legacy, or how the world will remember them. As caregivers, it is helpful for us to understand this dichotomy and learn to use different approaches for navigating the challenges of caring for and communicating effectively with our loved ones.
Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid, by Charlie Hudson
This selection is especially helpful for those at the very beginning of their journey into caregiving or aging. There are two central themes to Hudson’s work. First, she stresses the importance of planning ahead for the realities of aging and properly communicating those plans to family members. Her second core point is that articulating one’s personal definition of quality of life is something that must be done earlier rather than later. Handling these difficult objectives enables readers to develop a strategy for ensuring they can achieve the quality of life they desire as they get older and serves as a guide for family members who will likely become caregivers and surrogate decision makers. Hudson offers many innovative and creative ideas along with practical suggestions for enhancing and maintaining quality of life.
Best Books for Caregivers Suggested by and for Family Caregivers
While it is difficult to know where to start when searching for caregiving advice and counsel, I find the above works provide a varied and important perspective. The Caregiver Forum is another excellent source of tried and true information and resources compiled by and for family caregivers. Below are some AgingCare members’ best book recommendations on topics like dementia care, family dysfunction, caregiver stress, end-of-life issues and self-help.
- Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande, M.D., MPH
- Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir, by Roz Chast
- Trading Places: Becoming my Mother’s Mother—A Daughter’s Memoir, by Sandra Bullock Smith
- Loving Someone Who Has Dementia: How to Find Hope While Coping with Stress and Grief, by Pauline Boss, Ph.D.
- Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence, by Gail Sheehy
- Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
- Loving Hard-to-Love Parents: A Handbook for Adult Children of Difficult Older Parents, by Paul K. Chafetz, Ph.D.
- The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer’s Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss, by Nancy L. Mace, M.A., and Peter V. Rabins, M.D., MPH
- How to Survive Change… You Didn’t Ask For: Bounce Back, Find Calm in Chaos, and Reinvent Yourself, by M.J. Ryan
- Alzheimer’s: A Caregiver’s Guide and Sourcebook, by Howard Gruetzner
- The Mindful Caregiver: Finding Ease in the Caregiving Journey, by Nancy Kriseman, LCSW
- Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You, by Susan Forward, Ph.D.
- Surviving Alzheimer’s: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers, by Paula Spencer Scott
- Adult Children: The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families, by John Friel, Ph.D., and Linda Friel, M.A.
To purchase and peruse these and other books for caregivers, visit the AgingCare Senior Care Products Directory. Let other caregivers know what books you've read that have been especially helpful on your caregiving journey by leaving your recommendations in the comments below.