Caregiving has received increased attention in recent years, and with good reason. With a reported 10,000 people turning 65 each day, there are more seniors who are living longer, often with frailties and illness.
While the number of assisted, nursing, and independent living facilities may be increasing to meet the demand, many seniors prefer to and are able to stay longer in their homes or other residences. But this often eventually requires some level of caregiving and can place increased stress on the caregivers.
Not everyone is so fortunate to have a family member, neighbor, or friend who can commit to serving in a caregiving role to the extent that may be needed. As a response, there are many not-for-profit organizations whose mission is to help seniors stay in their homes for quality of life, dignity, and independence. There are also for-profit businesses that have emerged to do the same thing. But despite these options, many family members, neighbors, and friends still provide an important measure of comfort, support, and familiarity to seniors.
Volunteer caregiving can take many forms, ranging from limited involvement to full-time support. And quite often, more than one caregiver is involved. Caregiving can put significant demands on caregivers for time, compassion, expertise, money, sacrifice and more. And even in situations where a family member may live too far away to be involved on a daily basis, occasional visits or telephone calls with the loved one are important for both parties. And being far away can also lead to frustration, guilt, sadness, and more. So where does The Conscious Caregiver fit in?
Author Linda Abbit has a host of practical experience that inspired her to write The Conscious Caregiver. Trained as an educator first, she also became a caregiver and has evolved into an advocate for caregivers and older adults. She authors a blog called Tender Loving Eldercare, which features helpful articles drawn from her many years of experience as a caregiver.
Her book is tremendous. It is well-written, well-organized, and offers a framework for conscious caregiving. There is an important and convincing chapter on the necessity of taking care of oneself in order to take better care of others. This is such a valuable message and is central to the book’s purpose.
The middle part of the book focuses on the importance of communication in the caregiving role. Quite often a team of supporters is actively involved, but we may overlook or take for granted medical help, which could include multiple people. There could be other family members, neighbors, friends, clergy or parishioners, and other professionals involved in getting the loved one’s needs met. This requires organization and clear communication.
The latter part of the book is equally valuable. The focus is on the evolution of the loved one’s diminishing capabilities and the potential need for other housing options, serious medical decisions, estate planning, understanding the loved one’s wishes, and the process of letting go. Even at the end of life, the return to a life without being in the caregiving role can be an adjustment.
Abbit encourages mindfulness as a means to occasionally step away from the emotionally charged caregiving role to rebalance one’s state of mind. Trying to stay in the present moment can help when the pressures are mounting.
The Conscious Caregiver offers practical and logical suggestions for when caregivers may be too confused or stressed to see them on their own. Also, many people who read this book will have already experienced caregiving and will find themselves reliving various aspects. There will be reminders of situations or circumstances, and guidance to avoid making mistakes that may have been made in earlier experiences. Quite often caregivers are called upon to lend assistance more than once.
Without disrespecting other books that could be equally helpful, this book should be widely read. Nursing homes, doctors, and churches should make copies available for caregivers. People who provide volunteer care may often feel that they are alone in that world, but they are not, and do not have to be.
The Conscious Caregiver
Adams Media/Simon and Schuster
Paperback, 241 Pages