An informative, practical guide to caring for a dying loved one.
As Abbott notes in this slim but useful book, U.S. census figures predict that 20 percent of the country’s population will be over the age of 65 by 2020. The author’s primary focus, however, is on those who care for the elderly, as they also need psychological, emotional and often financial support. He notes that “currently unpaid caregivers—typically family members—provide approximately 90 percent of the long-term care and this percentage is unlikely to decline in the future.” Drawing on his own experiences caring for elderly parents, he offers caregivers everyday advice on how to handle this final and perhaps most difficult stage of life. He begins by dissecting the ways caregivers approach death, encouraging readers to identify themselves as deniers, anticipators or emoters (who find “emotional significance in almost every event”). Abbott acknowledges the pros and cons of each approach and the ways in which they may conflict with the personality of the person who’s dying. This consideration seems obvious to a degree, but as the author notes, caregiving is not always as easy as it appears. The caregiver juggles many balls at once, and Abbott writes that it’s essential for them to know what sort of people they are. He notes that one of the biggest challenges they face is balancing the things they control—such as a loved ones’ finances or personal effects—with the things they don’t, particularly if a loved one becomes increasingly obstinate or struggles with depression and dementia. By the author’s own admission, the book is not scientific; there are few studies or quotes from experts, and at times, more references may have been helpful. The sections on the difficulty of navigating Medicaid, for instance, are intriguing, but a broader portrait of the various types of financial help available might have been useful. That said, many chapters provide caregivers with concrete, empathetic suggestions on how to protect their loved ones and themselves.
A sympathetic, solid guidebook on the difficulties of caregiving.