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.