The Life Transition Blog

Summer Reading Guide for Caregivers

In my effort to provide my continuing series of book reviews for caregivers I have selected three works to share with you this week. Two of my recommendations are novels and the other is non-fiction originally intended for senior services professionals.

29 by Adena Halpern, tells the story of three generations of women – a grandmother, her daughter, and her granddaughter. The seventy-five year old grandmother identifies more with her twenty-nine 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 allows 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!

The second novel is Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Unlike 29, this novel is a tough emotional read. It follows a fifty year old Harvard professor as she discovers she suffers 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 sufferer. 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 she is feeling. The author is herself a PhD neuroscientist so the work rings very true from a clinical and scientific standpoint along with being a good read.

Nearly a decade ago, David Soliepublished How to Say it to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders. This work was originally intended for professionals in the senior services field but I have often recommended it to family members. The main message of this very helpful and practical guide is that older adults must balance between a desire to maintain control of their world and a desire to control their legacy or how the world remembers them. As caregivers, it is helpful to gain a good understanding of this dichotomy and to learn to use it to help you as you navigate the challenges in caring for your loved one.

While there is no shortage of advice and counsel for caregivers, I find these three 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!
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