By Sally Abrahms
If you're a family caregiver, finding time to read books might be in the same category as lounging around in your p.j.s sampling sinful bonbons. In other words, it's probably not happening.
I'm not saying that in the more than 10 years that I was a caregiver for my father, mother and mother-in-law (plus one super old dog) that I didn't open a book. I did. But they weren't about what I was going through in caregiving.
I sometimes had not so nice feelings that I thought must be abnormal about family members. I scrambled for information and resources.
Now you'll have a list of some of the best books for caregivers. (There are many more.) They will help validate your feelings, offer strategies and keep you on the straight path to sanity! (And, if you can't find time to head to the local book store, they're all available on Amazon - many even for immediate on your e-reader).
First, my hands-down favorite: New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast's "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?" Her series of cartoons depicting life with her frail, elderly and ill parents will make you both guffaw and tear up.
"The Caregiver's Survival Handbook: Caring for Your Aging Parents Without Losing Yourself." Gerontologist Alexis Abramson's primer ranges from exploring feelings (take guilt), encouraging a parent's independence, juggling responsibilities and effective communications.
"Caregiver's Path to Compassionate Decision Making: Making Choices for Those Who Can't." Bioethicist, hospice volunteer and professional speaker Viki Kind (aptly named) guides families about major life and death decisions, and hot button issues in between (e.g., taking car keys away, moving to a care facility).
"They're Your Parents, Too! How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents' Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy." Francine Russo nails it on roles, relationships, rivalries and more.
"The Caregiving Wife's Handbook," by Diana Denholm, a psychotherapist and caregiver to her husband. She addresses issues and emotions facing spousal caregivers from both a professional and personal standpoint.
Two books by The New York Times writers: "When the Time Comes: Families with Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions," Paula Span and "A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents—and Ourselves," Jane Gross
"The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers: Looking After Yourself and Your Family While Helping an Aging Parent," Barry J. Jacobs, PsyD
"Passages in Caregiving," Gail Sheehy
Dementia and Alzheimer's
"The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer's Disease, Related Dementias and Memory Loss," Nancy Mace and Dr. Peter Rabins. It tells what to expect and how to cope with the various stages and diseases.
"I'm Still Here," John Zeisel, Ph.D., renowned Alzheimer's specialist, and co-founder of the Hearthstone Alzheimer's Care residential facilities. A refreshing perspective: he focuses on what those with cognitive impairments can do, instead of what they can't and how to tap their creativity. His recommendations come from in-the-field research.
"Caregiving in Alzheimer's and Other Dementias," Dr. Eric Pfeiffer
"When Caring Takes Courage: A Compassionate, Interactive Guide for Alzheimer's and Dementia Caregivers," Mara Botonis
"Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator?" Based on Max Wallack's experience of living with his great-grandmother (a.k.a. “Great Grams") who had the disease. Wallack was in college when he wrote it with Carolyn Given, a former English teacher.
"What's Happening to Grandpa?" Maria Shriver and Sandra Speidel. A young girl hears her grandfather repeat himself over and over, realizes that something isn't right and tries to help him.
"The Memory Box," Mary Bahr and David Cunningham, written for children ages 5-8
"Singing with Momma Lou," Linda Jacobs Altman
"Grandma," picture book by Jessica Shepherd