The National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP estimated that about 34.2 million Americans have provided care to an adult age 50 or older. The Alzheimer’s Association found that approximately 15.7 million adult family caregivers have cared for loved ones living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.
Whether in the short term or long term, caring for aging parents, grandparents, family or friends is becoming an increasingly common experience. But unlike caring for newborns, with detailed week-by-week care guides and a myriad of resources on a baby’s developmental stages readily available, the state of aging and health is much harder to grasp.
A Reading List for Caregivers
Since it often takes a village to care for elders, seeking help and support is vital to caregivers. Many of us find reading stories from other caregivers helpful to understand and prepare for caregiving duties. Based on popularity and ratings on Goodreads and Amazon books, we have shortlisted five books and graphic novels that depict the challenges of caring for seniors, and the coping strategies these authors employed.
- "The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Other Dementias, and Memory Loss,” by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins
Dubbed the “Alzheimer’s/dementia caregivers’ bible,” the sixth edition of “The 36-Hour Day” is an exhaustive guide on the physical, emotional, financial and legal aspects of caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia. The book offers hands-on strategies to tackle behavior symptoms, resources for caregivers and the latest research findings on the disease. The guide also describes how changing government policies and regulations affect the benefits patients receive.
Reviewers recommended the book to people who have a family member suffering from the illness. One reviewer said, “… this book is useful — points out places you can go for help, things to watch out for, things to make sure the doctor looks into and doesn’t just write off as ‘getting older’ … and ways to improve their quality of life.”
- "Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?" By Roz Chast
Roz Chast is a cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine. As an only child, Chast became the primary caregiver of her parents in the final years of their lives. The graphic novel illustrates Chast’s memories of caring for her parents, capturing the emotional side of caregiving from the perspective of an adult child caregiver.
One reviewer said, “Every boomer — who expects her parent to live forever — eventually deals with all of this if her mother reaches 90 and beyond. It’s a surrealistic and lonely feeling and if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. For a few wonderful hours, Roz Chast made me feel as if someone else ‘got it’ and I wasn’t so alone.”
For more information about the book, read Chast’s interview with National Public Radio.
- "Special Exits," by Joyce Farmer
This graphic novel is a semi-autobiography of author Joyce Farmer, who became the caregiver of her father and stepmother at the end of their lives. Farmer’s personal experience was translated into the story of Laura — an adult child who shouldered the care of her parents with declining health.
A reviewer noted, “This is a beautifully told portrait of elder care, which even under the best of circumstances (Laura seems to have the time, money and family support) is trying and difficult.”
- "Mom’s Cancer," by Brian Fies
Originally a web series, Brian Fies illustrates the struggles he and his siblings had caring for their mother who was diagnosed with cancer. This graphic novel depicts the often complicated family dynamics of adult children who share responsibilities in caring for an aging loved one.
One of the reviews stated that the book is a “… must read for cancer patients, caregivers and doctors. While cancer treatments differ, there are many similarities in the roller coaster ride that are the treatments, scans, emotions.”
- "Showering with Nana: Confessions of a Serial (Killer)...Caregiver," by Cathy Sikorski
Cathy Sikorski is an elder care attorney and a “sandwich generation caregiver.” “Showering with Nana” tells the story of a time when Cathy stayed at home full time to take care of her two-year-old daughter and 92-year-old grandmother. The author uses humor to depict the challenges of caregiving and offers insights into legal issues around caregiving.
A reader said, “If you’ve ever cared for a parent or grandparent or are a parent or grandparent, you’ll find moments in the book that you recognize all too well and with Cathy’s wit, the humor that we all must find to navigate these situations.”
Caregiving for aging family and friends is no easy feat. What books do you read to find solace and guidance?