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Posted April 15, 2014
As a former caregiver for my mother, who had Alzheimer’s disease, I recommend Nancy Kriseman’s book, a comprehensive guide to bringing “mindfulness” to caregiving. Her main message is that family caregivers need to pay attention to own needs above all else. Our “first order of business,” she says, is to “check in” with ourselves about how we are doing:
Mindfulness “reminds you that you matter! It nudges you to be kind and gentle,
nonjudgmental, and compassionate with yourself. It can help you prioritize, set limits, stay
true to yourself, and ultimately feel more at ease during the caregiving journey.”
“The Mindful Caregiver” could be described not just as a meditation on mindfulness, but as a top-notch “how to” book for caregivers. Her tips for finding a geriatric care manager, deciding on an elder care facility, or advocating for your loved one in the E.R., for example, seem comprehensive. As readers we benefit from Kriseman’s long career working with elders and their caregivers, and from her ability to write clearly and compassionately.
We also benefit from the fact that Kriseman was a caregiver herself. Her mother was diagnosed at age 71 with Alzheimer’s disease, and passed away 17 years later. If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, you may appreciate that Kriseman includes many tips specifically for dementia caregivers. I found the scenes with her mother to be very moving.
In addition to her personal anecdotes, what makes “The Mindful Caregiver” particularly compelling are the author’s descriptions of the challenges faced by some of her former clients. I found it intriguing to see how a seasoned professional like Kriseman responded to a variety of difficult situations.
I appreciated that Kriseman goes into detail for each scenario, offering us road maps if we find ourselves in similar situations. Many readers will see themselves and their families in these pages, and feel both reassured that they are not alone and empowered to put their own needs firsts.
I have given “The Mindful Caregiver” 4 stars because of some minor design and editing issues that I found distracting as a reader. The vertical spacing between the lines of text is quite tight, which makes your eye work too hard to follow the lines as you read. Editing issues include dangling modifiers and some redundancy that would have benefited from revision or trimming. But otherwise I highly recommend the book to anyone caring for a family member or friend with a long-term illness or condition.
--author, “Inside the Dementia Epidemic: A Daughter’s Memoir”