Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book Review: Passages in Caregiving...

I have just finished reading Gail Sheehy's latest book, Passages in Caregiving, and recommend it to you with an enthusiastic thumbs up. Whether you are a family caregiver or a helping professional wanting to better understand the family caregiving experience, you will find much to enlighten you in these pages.

Using the turning points of the labyrinth, (a medieval symbol of a single pathway, with several switchback turns, leading to the center of a circle which is used by many spiritual traditions as a form of walking meditation or ritual), Ms Sheehy describes eight turnings in the path around the labyrinth of caregiving:

1. Shock and Mobilization

2. The New Normal

3. Boomerang

4. Playing God

5. I Can't Do This Anymore!

6. Coming Back

7. The In-Between Stage

8. The Long Good-bye

Each of these turnings is a passage in the emotional journey through providing care for a loved one - or a not-so-loved-one.

While drawing extensively and beautifully from her own and others' experiences of spousal caregiving, Ms Sheehy also touches on the experiences of those giving care to parents. Unfortunately, little is said about those caring for children with chronic conditions or about children who are caregivers themselves. Another limitation for Canadian readers is the detailed explanation of the American healthcare system. (Though there are certainly sufficient emotional parallels in our responses to the two systems to make these explanations readable.)

The epilogue is an interesting departure from the usual content of caregiving books with its exploration of sustainable aging and who will care for the aging boomers in a world of smaller and more transient families, fewer resources, and longer lived lives in the presence of complex medical conditions. Gail Sheehy's answer to the latter is an emphatic, "Us!". She offers the model of the "village movement" to those disinterested in an old age of dependence and isolation. This movement uses the yearly fees of members, (paid according to income), and their gifts and talents, to provide each other with the kind of support that small villages and neighbourhoods once offered.

I will write more about this idea, and about the labyrinth, in later posts. For now, suffice to say that Passages in Caregiving is worthy of a place on your summer reading list.

Caveat: Gail's descriptions of her emotional experiences during her caregiving journey with her husband are achingly accurate so, if you are feeling vulnerable or fragile, you might want to try reading just the chapters that currently pertain to you, and then leave the rest for later.

No comments: