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The Bookworm Sez: Look to bookshelf for advice, direction

Posted: December 25, 2013 - 6:19pm

This time of year always makes you think of things past.

You’re reminded of the holidays, and the kids when they were small. That makes you think about when you were a kid, of fun outside, Mom’s cookies inside, games that never ended, favorite toys, and family.

You’ve been thinking about all these things and remembering because you’re taking care of someone who can’t. It’s hard on you to watch, but there are resources to help. Start with these three new books for the Alzheimer’s caregiver…

When you’re in the midst of crisis, it’s sometimes hard to know what to do next. “An Unintended Journey: A Caregiver’s Guide to Dementia” by Janet Yagoda Shagam (c.2013, Prometheus Books, $20, 427) pages will help you put your thoughts in a straighter line.

From the basics of understanding and testing for solid diagnosis, to end-of-life issues and beyond, this extremely comprehensive book helps with easy-to-understand explanations, suggestions, and worksheets for writing down thoughts, to-dos, and feelings. You’ll learn how to ask for help from siblings; how to ensure legal concerns are in place; how to deal with anger issues (on both sides); and how to cope, day-to-day. What’s nice is that “An Unintended Journey” can be used both by the new caregiver, or as a refresher for anyone who’s an old hand at taking care of a loved one.

Caregiving can be frustrating, but you’ve come to realize that it can be rewarding, too. Still, you wonder how others deal with everything. In “The Geography of Memory” by Jeanne Murray Walker (c.2013, Center Street, $22, 384 pages), you’ll see how to cope with grace and humor.

Walker ’s mother was relatively young when the family first noticed a problem, starting with the small things, and it progressed. But while this book begins with an end, it’s really a celebration of life and love, the joy of family, the absurdity of the frailties of human mind and body, and finding good inside the bad. Be aware that, because it contains vast amounts of recounted conversation, it’s partly fictionalized — but that doesn’t lessen its helpfulness.

And finally… how do you learn to accept the losses you’re feeling? With “Living with Loss, One Day at a Time” by Rachel Blythe Kodanaz (c.2013, Fulcrum Books, $15.95, 386 pages), you’ll get a one-a-day bite of encouragement.

Meant to be read in tiny increments, this book offers ideas to grieve, accept, act and re-act and, ultimately, to heal. The ideas here range in size and time, most are well under a page in length to read, and they serve to distract, sooth, or to make you think in a direction that’s not right in front of you. I like this book because it’s not at all time-consuming and there’s no pressure to read it — but when you do, you’ll surely find something inspirational to help.

There are a lot of books on the shelves for Alzheimer’s caregivers, but these three will give you advice and direction, assurance that you’re not alone, and a balm for when you need it most. Look for them — because, of course, a caregiver needs care, too.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at bookwormsez@yahoo.com.

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