Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Book Review - An Unintended Journey.

I know that caregivers often don't have a lot of time to read the books that are aimed towards helping caregivers - an interesting irony. When caregivers DO have time to read a book, looking for support or information or a chance to shake their heads and say, "Wow, and I thought I had it bad!", the most disappointing thing would be if they, by accident, picked a bad one. That is why I have taken it upon myself to read as many of the books written for caregivers as possible and write reviews of them, so that when you finally have the time to read - you know that what you read might be worth that time.

An Unintended Journey, by Janet Yagoda Shagam.
 This is a big book, which ordinarily I like, but which might scare away caregivers who don't have much time to read. The title makes me think of one of the Hobbit books, which makes me laugh, but I think it is right on as most of us had no idea we would be making this kind of journey, nor would we have intended to, given half a chance. The reason it is so long, I found, is because it is packed full of information and stories, including a lot of little tidbits that a lot of other books don't cover (the type of tidbit that I'm always thinking needs to be covered!)

I really enjoyed the book. Shagam's mother suffered from dementia that made her progressively more agitated, temperamental, and difficult to handle. Shagam shares enough of her back story, however, that we get the sense that her mother may have always tended toward the difficult and that they had a complex emotional relationship from the beginning that made caring for her even more challenging. Shagam begins the book with some good, general information about dementia and aging and then segues into housing and care.

Shagam starts out caring for her mother, Dorothy, at home, and she goes into the details and challenges of hiring and managing in-home caregivers; managing different needs and behaviors; and even family dynamics - one of my signature and favorite subjects. Shagam seems to have made the decision to leave the really in-depth, specific legal and financial information to other books, of which there are many, although she does cover the basics. (Living With Lewy's - Amy Throop; The 36-Hour Day - Nancy Mace; The Elder Law Handbook - Peter Strauss.) Instead, she focuses on the 'little things', the kind of details and information I like and try to include in my writing because they are important things that all caregivers deal with but that a lot of books don't find interesting enough to cover. Things like behavior modification, and embarrassing events, creativity, and making your care-taker happy with little details like favorite foods - interesting details like that. She even goes into how you might tell your loved one they are moving into a facility, which most books don't cover.

Her book runs the gamut, from diagnosis to facility living to hospice care and what happens after death. There is a helpful and interesting section about the bureaucracy and paperwork that comes after a death, and, of course, ways to deal with grief and feelings. At the end, she includes several stories of the experiences of different families that I enjoyed reading.

From soup to nuts, Shagam covers most of the experience of caregiving, in a well-written, enjoyable read. The sections are short and interesting, so if you didn't have much time at the end of the day, you could read one or two sections. I really liked the book - it spoke to many of the unique experiences I've had with dad and the information and details I wish I could have found when I was first caregiving and on my own.  ****

1 comment:

    ESTELLA & SYLVIA is for you. This novel is the refreshing break you need while caring for that special loved one.

    —”This is one of the most unique family stories I’ve ever read. I found myself rooting for the whole family. It also helped me as a caretaker.” Frances Blake, just a book lover who enjoys a good story while caring for her sick mother.---