Caregivers’ reading list: Tips, guidance and humor

Most family caregivers know there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done on their to-do list. So why would a caregiver with some down time pick up a book — on caregiving?

Because maybe when you put the book down, you might be smarter, calmer or even in a better mood.

Take, for example, "How to Care for Aging Parents: A One-Stop Resource for All Your Medical, Financial, Housing, and Emotional Issues," by Virginia Morris. Now in its third edition, "How to Care for Aging Parents" has earned accolades usually reserved for the bestseller list. ("The bible of eldercare," said ABC World News, while The Washington Post called it, "A compassionate guide of encyclopedic proportion.")

The book provides concise, authoritative information on everything from preventing elder fraud to a primer on the different stages of Alzheimer’s disease and the essentials of Medicare parts A and B.

There’s also the personal, but no less informative, "Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence," by mega-selling "Passages" author Gail Sheehy. The writer uses her experience caring for her husband, the late magazine editor Clay Felker, as a springboard to delve into — and try to make sense of — the healthcare system, the dearth of support for family caregivers, and the impact of a loved one’s death and its aftermath.

As Sheehy leads readers on this journey, she offers both practical and spirit-lifting advice.

Then there’s the crowded genre of caregiver memoirs which read more like journals and collections of poignant and profound moments that result in "ah-ha" moments. Some contain poetry, others capture the humor that inevitably surfaces amid the pressures of caregiving. Many can bring you to tears.

The book jacket of "My Life Rearranged: Musings of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver," by Cardiff author Susan Miller, says the book "will tug at your heart, touch your soul, inspire you, and help you believe in your capabilities."

"The book just flowed out of me and it felt like it was something I was supposed to be doing," Miller told the Union-Tribune recently. "In the beginning, it was just for me, but I later came to understand the impact it could have on caregivers. It is my way of giving back and giving thanks that I could see the journey through to the end, and find tomorrow."

Former Carlsbad resident Jerry Bridge — a motivational speaker and comedian — also thought his experience, which he got through with a combination of therapy, faith, journaling and a sense of humor, could be the basis of a book. From that, came "Who Cares? The Give and Take of Family Caregiving."

Bridge told the Union-Tribune in 2015 that he wanted "Who Cares" to help other caregivers sort through the emotions and day-to-day challenges of their role as well as prepare for the end-of-life stage.

"Some people will have it more difficult than me and some not as difficult," he said. "It’s just a way to help people not feel alone and … help people laugh and cry."

An informal search of Amazon turned up warehouses-worth of caregiving books, some put out by large publishing houses, others self published. There is value in even older, out-of-print volumes which can offer universal advice and timeless encouragement. Among the 4,000-plus available on Amazon, we’re citing a micro-sampling below.

Some of the titles can be found at public libraries or on the shelves at caregiver-centric organizations such as the Southern Caregiver Resource Center and the Sharp Senior Resource Centers. Others can also be purchased directly from the authors, including Miller ( and Bridge (

  • "The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss," by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins. Considered essential, trusted reading for anyone caring for someone with dementia. Every aspect of the disease is covered in easy-to-understand language.
  • "Dementia Sucks: A Caregiver’s Journey with Lessons Learned," by Tracey S. Lawrence. Think caring for your father and then your mother for 12 years, handling all of their financial, health and daily living concerns, can’t be side-splitting? Read on: " ‘Not buying it, huh?’ My mother acknowledged her assertion that the woman she pointed out at the rehab center as being her dead husband was a bit of a stretch. But this was the kind of conversation I had with Mom as her cognitive abilities declined and her psychosis fully bloomed." The true, heart-wrenching, and yet hilarious stories at the center of "Dementia Sucks" were borne of a journal and blog that author Lawrence kept as her mother transformed from classic Jewish mother, to mildly forgetful Floridian grandma, to geriatric delinquent removed by police for knife-play at a rehabilitation facility. Really.
  • "The Complete Eldercare Planner: Where to Start, Which Questions to Ask and How to Find Help," by Joy Loverde. This respected, comprehensive road map to caregiving is also a useful workbook, with multiple checklists and an extensive document locator.
  • "Eldercare for Dummies," by Rachelle Zukerman. If ever a book title conveyed how caregiving can throw even the savviest person for a loop, this is it. Written in the consumer-friendly format that the "Dummies" franchise is known for, this guide will take you through problem areas you might not even know is a problem yet.


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