The Gifts of Caregiving
by Connie Goldman

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2002. ISBN 1577491173.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 02/24/2008

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration; Nonfiction: Elders

This is the kind of book that does not age. There are practical books out there which give you helpful hints about struggling through the caregiving process. This is not one of them. The stories in The Gifts of Caregiving are from interviews which grew out of a PBS show entitled "The Rewards of Caregiving." A CD of that program is included in the back of the book.

Gifts is about quiet courage, love and hope. It highlights the alchemy of caregiving from which many emerge with compassion, insight, and wisdom. Some, perhaps many, emerge from months or years of caregiving exhausted and bitter. But that state is not a foregone conclusion. As Goldman says, "We learn about ourselves from hearing the stories of others." All of us are caregivers, will be caregivers, were caregivers, or are given care at some point in our lives.

There are many teachings in the stories of ordinary people as well as extraordinary people. You will recognize many of the names—Rosalynn Carter, the late Dana Reeve, Studs Terkel, and Bill Thomas to name a few.

Gems of wisdom:

  • Humor always helps
  • A caregiver must take time for herself
  • It is a special experience—a time of growth
  • You must give up expectations
  • We are all mortal (even teens)
  • One day at a time. Stay in the present
  • Appreciate the simple things
  • There is a partnership between those giving and those receiving—listen
  • Help her validate the life she has had
  • Physical touch is valuable
  • Find others to share both the good and the difficult
  • Ask for help when you need it
  • Acknowledge your anger, your fear, your impatience, your guilt
  • You will not make her well, but you can ease the way
  • Being with him is important. One does not always have to do.

You have the list, but you do not have the stories that will dwell in your mind and your heart. You may not need this book now, but you will be inspired by it as you read these stories of quiet courage, love, and hope.

Connie Goldman is an award-winning independent public radio producer, author, and public speaker. She is the author of five books and the recipient of the 2001 Senior Award from the American Society on Aging. She lives with her husband near Minneapolis.

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