Candid, compassionate, and comforting caregiving advice.

WHEN CAREGIVING CALLS

GUIDANCE AS YOU CARE FOR A PARENT, SPOUSE, OR AGING RELATIVE

A debut work directed at caregivers delivers straight talk and a lot of understanding.

About 21% of adults in the United States—as many as 53 million Americans—act as caregivers for aging or disabled loved ones, according to a 2020 research report cited by Blight. This segment of the population performs a service that the author is all too familiar with. He and his wife were caregivers to his mother-in-law in their home for close to two years following brain surgery, after which she lived independently but needed assistance from health aides. The episode led Blight to start his own home care company and eventually become a caregiving consultant. These three experiences—caregiver, owner of a home care service, and consultant—uniquely qualify the author to comprehend the complex, often emotional aspects of providing care for a spouse or aging parent. The book is smartly organized into 18 brief yet highly relevant chapters, each addressing an aspect of caregiving. At the close of every chapter, questions are included for reflection. Rather than attempt to create a manual, the author shares salient observations about caregiving from a very personal perspective. Often, he exposes the changing roles and conflicting emotions associated with caregiving, expressing feelings that may be uncomfortable but are widespread among practitioners. He writes, for example, “When the mother who cared for you becomes dependent upon care by you, the change can be unexpectedly difficult to comprehend and accept.” He references a study by two researchers that helps explain this “role identity conflict,” offering helpful suggestions for how to cope with such a common situation.

Blight also deftly discusses the complex dynamic if the caregiver and the receiver have “an imperfect relationship.” In this case, caregivers “need to decide how much they can tolerate and then set boundaries with the care receiver.” Throughout the book, the author brings up thorny, challenging issues and then applies his experience in proposing mechanisms to deal with them. In writing about time management, for example, he acknowledges that caregivers often need to adjust their schedules to meet receivers’ needs. He then suggests six time-management strategies to handle this reality. When he points to “compassion fatigue,” a condition that occurs when caregivers get worn out, he lists 10 “stress-reduction tips” for them to follow. Blight diligently covers many aspects of how caregiving affects both parties, such as the impact on other members of the family, the problems of juggling caregiving and work, the pros and cons of hiring outside assistance, the discomfort surrounding ministering to an aging body, the demands of coping with dementia, and more. Blight writes in a conversational, informal style. He demonstrates a keen understanding of the entire spectrum of caregiving and uses pertinent examples. He continuously reassures the caregiver, especially when he talks about the “rewards” of the role. In this respect, Blight is both educator and cheerleader. His intimate knowledge of caregiving—how it affects the two principals—makes this a valuable resource.

Candid, compassionate, and comforting caregiving advice.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73391-414-7

Page Count: 238

Publisher: Rivertowns Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS

Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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