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Tuesday, September 27, 2016


5 stars out of 5

Are you a caregiver for a relative, perhaps an elderly parent? Might that a possibility in upcoming years? Do you want to take steps now to prepare for your own future so no one will have to fill that role when you no longer can care for yourself? If any of these scenarios set off alarm bells in your head, this book is an important tool. If they don't, it's probably even more important.

In the interest of full disclosure, I requested (and received, thank you) an advance copy in exchange for an honest review because I'm already involved in senior health issues, albeit from a different perspective. Since I retired from going to a workplace every day back in 2002, I've been a state-certified volunteer long-term care ombudsman for Ohio. Each week, I visit my assigned facility to talk with residents and help make sure their rights are being upheld (and, if not, do what I can, together with the local Area Agency on Aging, to facilitate positive change). Any book that deals with the topic of long-term care, then, is of great interest to me - not just because I'm always eager to learn but because, if it's well done, I can recommend it to others who may need it.

And recommend it I most certainly do. The goal, the author says, is to make readers "feel more powerful" and let them know they may have many options. It shows caregivers ways to save time, money and energy and have a personal life. "Caregiving is like a muscle that can be developed and strengthened," the author writes, and her book is designed to help with that. Following a "boating" theme, she tackles really tough issues such as "promises" we may make (think assuring your mother you'll never, ever put her in a nursing home) to whether it's a good idea to quit your job and take over full-time care of a loved one (and how to deal with it if that's what your loved one expects you to do).

Best of all, it's not just platitudes and lip service; options are presented for each topic, and chapters include "course corrections," or steps to take if you're already halfway down the wrong path. Everywhere are examples, checklists, worksheets and questions to answer that will help you make the best decisions for yourself and for (and with) your loved ones. Still other chapters focus on expectations and realities of the health-care system (i.e., Medicare and Medicaid), the ramifications of dementia and - not insignificantly - what you need to do now to prepare for the time you may need some type of care yourself.

Even if you're not performing a direct caregiving function - or one of your loved ones already is in a long-term care facility - there's plenty of good information here for you. I'm always surprised, for instance, when a resident of "my"nursing home - or someone in their family who's visiting and is concerned about some issue - tells me he or she had no idea the local Area on Aging even exists, much less what services it provides. At the end of the book is a comprehensive list of resources; depending on where you are on the caregiver continuum, you can look them up immediately or stash them away for future consultation.

Cruising through Caregiving: Reducing the Stress of Caring for Your Loved One by Jennifer L. FitzPatrick (Greenleaf Book Group Press, September 2016); 375 pp.

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