Book Review by Valerie Porter

Let’s Read… Passages in Caregiving

Bestselling author Gail Sheehy’s latest book, Passages in Caregiving, isn’t so much something you read because you want to, but rather because you need to.

Sheehy is the author of several highly successful books addressing major moments in the lives of Baby Boomers, including the widely acclaimed Passages.

This time around she focuses on a most troubling yet fairly common topic that affects nearly 50 million adults: suddenly being put into the position of providing unpaid care for a loved one who has become ill or disabled.

The book grew out of her own seventeen-year experience taking loving care of her husband, renowned journalist and editor Clay Felker, as he battled cancer. She deftly weaves their story throughout the book as a means of showing readers the do’s and don’ts of family caregiving.

The author explains that it all begins with The Call. This could be a phone call telling you a parent has fallen or had an accident, or a doctor calling with a devastating diagnosis pertaining to your spouse. The news, she explains, forever alters your life, and requires you to take action that may completely re-shape what you thought you had planned.

Sheehy details the eight crucial stages of caregiving, calling them Turnings (for Turning Points). They are: Shock and Mobilization; The New Normal; Boomerang; Playing God; “I Can’t Do this Anymore!”; Coming Back; The In-Between Stage; and The Long Good-Bye.

She offers invaluable advice for navigating through each stage, with tips on hospital stays, discharge planning, hospice information, disease hotlines, recommendations regarding surgery, and even travel agencies specializing in assisting those with special needs.

Each chapter features a “Strategies” section which is part “to do” list for obtaining much-needed physical or financial help and part pep talk and inspiration to carry both patient and caregiver through these most difficult times.

Throughout the book, published by William Morrow, Sheehy gently but firmly reminds those who find themselves in the unexpected role of taking care of a loved one to remember that “every caregiver needs caregivers.” She explains that too often caregivers risk their own physical or emotional health to take care of someone else. She acts as cheerleader, encouraging caregivers to take care of themselves mentally and physically and not be afraid to ask for help from friends and other family members.

The author’s knowledge of and compassion for the subject is unrivaled and it’s no wonder she was named AARP’s Ambassador of Caregiving in 2009.

Sheehy states in the book that “The question is not if you will be called to act as a family caregiver – that call will come to most of us at some point – but how you will respond.” Fortunately she has written Passages in Caregiving, which is a guidebook not only for those currently undergoing a caregiving situation, but for anyone hoping to be better prepared when the need arises.