Caregiving is often unseen work with physical and emotional challenges. It can also be isolating for many as they find themselves constantly needed. It may be hard to remember for those caring for seniors that millions of people have been – or are currently – in their shoes. Seeking comfort, community and advice from those who have done it before you can be both a practical resource and an emotional release.
In these books, those who have walked the path of caregivers give their insight, humor and resources, and reflect on what it means to care for those we love without sacrificing our own well-being. They tackle everything from initial conversations with your parents about care options to how to navigate care in a pandemic—even insights from a therapist on mental health.
Whether you find yourself suddenly in the role of a caregiver or have been taking on the responsibility for years, these books offer insight and perspective on caring for a loved one while caring for yourself.
1. The Conscious Caregiver: A Mindful Approach to Caring for Your Loved One Without Losing Yourself by Linda Abbit
As a veteran of the professional caregiving industry, Abbit has significant firsthand experience and insight on the toll caregiving can take. She insists that a high level of self-care and self-love is the only way to combat burnout. She also offers resources to help caregivers provide the best care without sacrificing their own health or well-being.
2. No Regrets: Hope for Your Caregiving Season by Rayna Neises
This book of personal advice and anecdotes helps break through the isolation that can come with full-time caregiving. Neises offers practical tips and resources for caregivers who are overwhelmed. At the forefront is the insistence caregivers must prioritize caring for themselves as well as their loved ones. The reference to caregiving as a season makes clear this predictable part of life is something almost everyone will go through.
3. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
In this New York Times bestseller and 2014 National Book Award finalist, Chast tells the story of caring for her aging parents with humor and relatable anecdotes. Chast is a well-known cartoonist for The New Yorker and turns that quick wit and stylistic art into a heartwarming (and wrenching) tale of the transition from adult child to being in the parental role for her parents. The comic style makes for a quick and easily digestible read for caregivers short on downtime.
4. Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America by Barbara Ehrenreich
Positive thinking is always great, right? Maybe not. Barbara Ehrenreich insists she’s “not against having a nice day.” What she discusses in this book is the idea that you have to be upbeat, especially when battling terminal disease, or there must be something wrong with you. Worse yet, was the insistence from some people that if her breast cancer fight was lost, it may be her own fault for simply not believing enough.
Ehrenreich explores all the ways in which the cultural obsession with positive thinking can be inadvertently harmful. This includes the sometimes infantilizing ways those with life-threatening diseases can be treated.
5. The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide for Caring for People with Alzheimer Disease, Other Dementias, and Memory Loss in Later Life by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins
This book is widely considered the “bible” for caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s. The guide acts as a complete reference with chapters on everything from behavioral symptoms, problems in independent living, and financial and legal issues. Now in its sixth edition, the book is continuously updated with new resources and information as it evolves. The Chicago Sun-Times called it “The best guide of its kind.”
6. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottleib
This book goes behind the scenes of the life of a therapist. Both humorous and thought-provoking, Gottleib offers a personalized look at the state of mental health. The book discusses the stigmas of therapy and how people could benefit from giving the practice a try. The genuine and insightful journey may be both cathartic and helpful for any caregivers finding themselves emotionally overwhelmed.
7. Somebody Stole My Iron: A Family Memoir of Dementia by Vicki Tapia
This finalist for the High Plains Book Award in 2015 shares the author’s account of caring for her father after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and her mother with Alzheimer’s disease. Tapia shares heartfelt experiences and the practical firsthand lessons she learned. She understands the stress of constant care and the hardship of watching disease change her parents into someone unrecognizable.
8. Kick-Ass Kinda Girl: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Caregiving by Kathi Koll
The author recounts her many losses and experiences with caregiving throughout her life. Koll reflects on her life and circumstances with unflinching honesty and raw humor. Full of celebrity name drops and sunny optimism, Koll aims to inspire those struggling with personal tragedy.
9. Mom, Dad… Can We Talk? Helping Our Aging Parents with the Insight and Wisdom of Others by Dick Edwards
An anthology of 100 personal stories and quotes, “Mom, Dad… Can We Talk?” shares insights from adult children on navigating care conversations with their aging parents. It also has guides for other familial conversations, such as between siblings debating their options for their parents. Specific chapters also cover topics like how to care for a parent with a special needs child or how to manage care during a global pandemic.
10. Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky
Laura van Dernoot Lipsky is a professional trauma worker who explores the tolls many caregivers face. Filled with personal stories and laugh-out-loud comics and practical tips on how to navigate caregiving.
11. Family Life by Algol Sharma
Not all helpful stories need to be nonfiction. “Family Life” is a novel about an Indian family who moves to America, full of hope, before being struck by tragedy. When his brother becomes severely brain-damaged, Ajay struggles to find what is best for himself and best for his family. While not about aging parents, the book tackles a common debate for caregivers of when to be dutiful and when to put yourself first.
12. Self-Care: From the Trenches…With Love, Humour & a Kick in the Pants by Nicole Dauz
“Self-care is accessible to all—even caregivers,” Dauz writes, and her latest book – part personal story and part road map to better self-care – uses humor and anecdotes as tools caregivers can use to stop making excuses for taking care of themselves. As a caregiver coach and self-care advocate, Dauz teaches readers about the value of finding joy each day—a habit that will truly allow you to be a more effective caregiver.