Caregivers often feel that there aren’t enough resources available on how to provide quality care while 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 re-encountered many of the classic resources I have recommended to caregivers again and again. These books are always on my “must read books for caregivers” list, and I have selected four of my favorites to share with you. The first two are novels and the other two are non-fiction.
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 discover important things about one another and their relationships. Halpern encourages readers to question their assumptions about youth, aging and family relationships. You will likely laugh out loud, and that’s always therapeutic for caregivers!
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
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 really 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 book 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 PhD 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
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 that 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 sustaining quality of life.
Caregiving Book Suggestions from AgingCare.com Members
While it is difficult to know where to start when searching for caregiving advice and counsel, I find the above works each provide a varied and important perspective. The Caregiver Forum is another excellent source of tried and true information and resources compiled by and for caregivers. Below are some AgingCare members’ best book recommendations on topics like dementia care, family dysfunction, end-of-life issues and self-help.
- Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
- 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
- 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, PhD
- 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, MA, and Peter V. Rabins, MD, 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
- Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You by Susan Forward, PhD
- Surviving Alzheimer’s: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers by Paula Spencer Scott
- Adult Children: The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families by John and Linda Friel
To purchase and peruse these and other elder care titles, visit the AgingCare Senior Care Products Directory.