Caring for Yourself While Caring for Your Aging Parents by Claire Berman

Review by Phyllis Laudano, Staff Writer
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"Caring for Yourself While Caring for Your Aging Parents: How to Help, How to Survive" by Claire Berman

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In a Nutshell: This book would be very helpful to all those who are caring for an elderly or ill parent, especially when you are an only child or have complex family dynamics.

The main theme of Claire Berman’s book, Caring for Yourself While Caring for Your Aging Parents can be summed up by the closing sentence of her introduction where she states in bold print,

"If we are to successfully manage the care of our parents, we have to learn, first of all, to care for ourselves." With its focus firmly set on the needs of the caregiver, this book will be especially helpful to all those who find themselves overwhelmed by the additional burden of powerful, negative emotions that often accompany the care of an elderly parent. When the caregiver’s quality of life is compromised by guilt, anger, frustration, fear, and a total lack of control and power, their ability to provide adequate, competent care for their parent is severely limited. The author’s goal, in writing this book, is to prevent this from happening to her readers.

In addition to addressing the practical, day to day issues that all caregivers will encounter, the book’s highlights include chapters dealing with:

  • The challenges an only child must deal with as the sole caregiver of their parent.
  • Keeping the proper perspective while dealing with the emotional turmoil the caregiver often faces.
  • A Caregiver’s Bill of Rights
  • How to maintain your own life while caring for your elderly parent.

These chapters offer advice from a unique perspective enabling the caregiver to overcome the emotional obstacles facing them. Not only does this free them to become more efficient and competent in meeting the basic needs of their elderly parent, but restores their mental and emotional well being by lifting the burden of guilt and despair from their shoulders.

Caring for Yourself While Caring for Your Aging Parents is a helpful book for all those who find themselves in this situation. The one minor flaw I encountered while reading this book was the very small print size used in the table of contents, making it difficult for most middle-aged people to read.

Topics Discussed/ Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Supercaregivers: Struggles and Successes- meet supercaregivers and learn their struggles, ways to lighten the burden.

Chapter 2: Helping Yourself and Helping Your Parent- support groups: the wrong way to choose a group, what to look for in a support group, how to locate a caregiver support group, the adult day-care center, what to look for in a day-care center, in-home care, working with a licensed home-care agency, working with the home-care attendant.

Chapter 3: Stress Among Siblings- Ways To Manage It- being a primary caregiver is a major source of stress, sibling rivalries resurface, the far-away favorite child, shared decision making, arranging a family conference.

Chapter 4: Going It Alone: The Only Child- feeling overwhelmed and alone, caregiving can cause stress in a marriage, finding support and help for the only child caregiver and their parent.

Chapter 5: Long Distance Caregiving- considering a move, visiting, meals on wheels and other nutritional resources, finding local support groups, when it's not possible for you to be there.

Chapter 6: Focus On Finances: Reality and Emotion- dealing with your elderly parents fear of poverty, money is power to some, finding help through medicare and medicaid, managing your parents finances.

Chapter 7: Making Decisions For Your Parent- making correct assessments, should your elderly parent still drive a car, taking over financial decisions, depression, serious illness.

Chapter 8: Loss and Mourning- mourning the loss of the person your elderly parent used to be.

Chapter 9: Keeping the Focus Clear- examining your motives, when you don’t get along with your parent, resolving the relationship, maintaining a sense of perspective, setting limits.

Chapter 10: The Nursing Home Decision- is your parent ready for a nursing home, the search for a home, what to look for and ask when you visit, introducing the idea to your parent, how to work along with the nursing home in the care of you parent.

Chapter 11: Who’ll Be There To Care For Me?- when caring for our parents we think of who will care for us.

Appendices

  1. Caregiver’s Bill of Rights
  2. State Units on Aging
  3. Helpful Organizations and Resources
  4. Suggested Reading

Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Claire Berman, a widely published author of books and articles, specializes in writing about the emotional dimensions of relationships. Her other books include Making It as a Stepparent and A Hole in My Heart: Adult Children of Divorce Speak Out.

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