The best books on elderly care

2 authors have picked their favorite books about elderly care and why they recommend each book.

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Late Migrations

By Margaret Renkl,

Book cover of Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss

When Renkl’s book arrived on my doorstep a few years ago, I was lost in the rush of the day. But just one glance at the first page and I stopped all else, found a chair, and settled in with this book of woven fragments. The solace and danger of the natural world braid, in Renkl’s hands, with personal losses, worry, and wonder. Images, metaphors, and motifs repeat and repeat again—enlarging the story with each appearance. Illustrations by Renkl’s brother complete the story, making this book endlessly re-readable and finally reassuring.


Who am I?

The first memoir I ever read—Road Song by Natalie Kusz—pierced me in ways I did not know were possible. Kusz had written, in this elegantly crafted book, of an Alaskan childhood, a life-changing accident, early motherhood, and family love. She had written, I mean to say, of transcending truths. I have spent much of my life ever since deconstructing the ways in which true stories get told, and writing them myself. I’ve taught memoir to five-year-olds, Ivy League students, master’s level writers, and retirees. I co-founded Juncture Workshops, write a monthly newsletter on the form, and today create blank books into which other writers might begin to tell their stories.


I wrote...

Wife Daughter Self: A Memoir in Essays

By Beth Kephart,

Book cover of Wife Daughter Self: A Memoir in Essays

What is my book about?

Wife | Daughter | Self: A Memoir in Essays, by National Book Award finalist Beth Kephart, reflects on the iterative, composite self as she travels to lakes and rivers, New Mexico and Mexico, the icy waters of Alaska, and a hot-air balloon launch in search of understanding. Who is she, in relationship to others? Who is she when she is alone, with a pen in her hands? And how will she write the truest version of her life after spending many years teaching others to unlock their own tales? A book of interlocking essays by an acclaimed writer, teacher, and critic that engages the reader in soul searches of their own.

Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? A Memoir

By Roz Chast,

Book cover of Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? A Memoir

Anybody who’s had to clean out a family home knows what a messy, emotional, tedious, painful, sometimes lonely, occasionally humorous process it can be. Cartoonist Roz Chast captures all of that in this graphic memoir about helping her elderly parents move out of the New York City apartment they’d lived in for decades. Like me, Chast is an only child. That made a tough job even tougher, and she’s astonishingly frank about the ups and downs. If you find yourself having to help a loved one downsize, this book will make you feel less alone, no matter how many siblings you have. It helped me get through the worst of cleaning out my mother’s house.


Who am I?

I didn’t choose clutter as a topic—it chose me. Around the time Marie Kondo became a tidying-up sensation, my mother suffered a breakdown and could no longer live in her dangerously cluttered house. I’m an only child, so it fell to me to figure what to do with it all. So much stuff! It got me wondering: How did clutter get to be such a huge problem for so many people? The books on this list helped answer that question and made me feel less alone in the struggle with stuff. I hope you find them useful too.


I wrote...

Clutter: An Untidy History

By Jennifer Howard,

Book cover of Clutter: An Untidy History

What is my book about?

Inspired by the painful process of cleaning out her mother’s house, Jennifer Howard sets her own personal struggle with clutter against a meticulously researched history of just how the developed world came to drown in material goods. In an age when Amazon can deliver anything at the click of a mouse and decluttering guru, Marie Kondo can become a reality TV star, Howard’s bracing analysis has never been more timely. Slim and compelling, Clutter is a book for anyone struggling to understand why they have so much stuffand what to do about it.

The Successful Caregiver’s Guide

By Rick Lauber,

Book cover of The Successful Caregiver’s Guide

Rick Lauber is another caregiving expert that I turn to for information and advice when I was a caregiver. This book is jam-packed with practical guidelines, tips, and resources for caregivers. It helps caregivers assess their needs and what care options are available to them as they care for the needs of their loved one changes and their ability to be a caregiver also changes. 


Who am I?

I have been a medical social worker for over 40 years working with people who have had a catastrophic illness. I counseled them and their family members. Because of this experience, I have a lot of knowledge, experience, and training regarding the challenges caregivers face. In addition, I was the primary caregiver for my parents and helped take care of 2 friends helping them to die with dignity. Finally, I am the author of an 8-time award-winning book called Role Reversal How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents. I have written hundreds of articles on health-related topics including aging and caregiving.


I wrote...

Role Reversal: How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents

By Iris Waichler,

Book cover of Role Reversal: How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents

What is my book about?

Designed to help caregivers understand how to cope with and overcome the overwhelming challenges that arise while caregiving for a loved one―especially an aging parent―Role Reversal is a comprehensive guide to navigating the enormous daily challenges faced by caregivers.

In these pages, Waichler blends her personal experience caring for her beloved father with her forty years of expertise as a patient advocate and licensed clinical social worker. It is told in her voice and his. His life story becomes a springboard discussing universal caregiving themes. The result is a book offering invaluable information on topics ranging from estate planning to grief and anger to building a support network and finding the right level of care for your elderly parent. This book won 8 major book awards. 

The Conscious Caregiver

By Linda Abbit,

Book cover of The Conscious Caregiver: A Mindful Approach to Caring for Your Loved One Without Losing Yourself

In my experience working with caregivers burnout is the biggest challenge. This book offers readers real-life case examples and exercises to help caregivers understand themselves better. It helps caregivers closely examine their options as the needs of the person they care for change. It focuses a lot on the psychological issues and challenges the caregiver relationship creates for all who are involved. 


Who am I?

I have been a medical social worker for over 40 years working with people who have had a catastrophic illness. I counseled them and their family members. Because of this experience, I have a lot of knowledge, experience, and training regarding the challenges caregivers face. In addition, I was the primary caregiver for my parents and helped take care of 2 friends helping them to die with dignity. Finally, I am the author of an 8-time award-winning book called Role Reversal How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents. I have written hundreds of articles on health-related topics including aging and caregiving.


I wrote...

Role Reversal: How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents

By Iris Waichler,

Book cover of Role Reversal: How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents

What is my book about?

Designed to help caregivers understand how to cope with and overcome the overwhelming challenges that arise while caregiving for a loved one―especially an aging parent―Role Reversal is a comprehensive guide to navigating the enormous daily challenges faced by caregivers.

In these pages, Waichler blends her personal experience caring for her beloved father with her forty years of expertise as a patient advocate and licensed clinical social worker. It is told in her voice and his. His life story becomes a springboard discussing universal caregiving themes. The result is a book offering invaluable information on topics ranging from estate planning to grief and anger to building a support network and finding the right level of care for your elderly parent. This book won 8 major book awards. 

A Dignified Life

By Virginia Bell, David Troxel,

Book cover of A Dignified Life: The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer's Care: A Guide for Care Partners

This book shows you how to meet many of the daily challenges of caring for someone with dementia. Illustrated through the heartfelt stories of others this book shows your how The Best Friends method brings dignity to the lives of those presenting dementia symptoms and those who are caring for them.

I found the explanation of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia symptoms very interesting and helpful, specifically how this type of loss and experience can make the individual feel. I appreciated learning additional and successful ways to respond and communicate to many situations that caregivers face when caring for any individual with any cause of dementia symptoms.

Dementia care is complex and different for every person, and I am always looking for new perspectives and care approaches to share with family and professional care providers that can give confidence and feelings of empowerment to anyone on their individual dementia care journey-and…


Who am I?

During my decades of working with caregivers as a dementia care expert, I have heard many accounts of what the experience is like—from the sad and hollow to experiences rich in significance. Everyone faces obstacles when caring for a loved one; some of these obstacles come in the form of uncomfortable or painful emotional histories or past unresolved conflicts. After each opportunity to raise awareness and understanding about how dementia impacts individuals, their families, and their communities, I have been gratified to witness enhanced feelings of hope and comfort for all involved. It is my hope that through this book I will enter your home or your professional caregiving setting and work alongside you. 


I wrote...

A Loving Approach to Dementia Care: Making Meaningful Connections While Caregiving

By Laura Wayman,

Book cover of A Loving Approach to Dementia Care: Making Meaningful Connections While Caregiving

What is my book about?

Caring for someone with dementia means devotedly and patiently doing a hundred little things each day. But few care providers are trained to meet the challenges of dementia—despite the fact that millions of people will struggle with it. In A Loving Approach to Dementia Care, Laura Wayman, who is known professionally as the Dementia Whisperer, offers practical, compassionate advice on overcoming caregiving obstacles and maintaining meaningful relationships with loved ones who have dementia and memory loss.

Each chapter contains two sections—"Lessons Learned" and "Perceptions and Approaches"—which provide details about how readers can apply lessons from the stories Wayman tells to their own caregiving practice. A Loving Approach to Dementia Care is an empathetic guide filled with respect, calm, and creativity. It will leave readers feeling empowered and inspired.

All Things Consoled

By Elizabeth Hay,

Book cover of All Things Consoled: A Daughter's Memoir

Most of us have complicated feelings about our parents, and Elizabeth Hay is no exception. The time Hay spends filling in the family back story pays off by making the elder-care journey more poignant and nuanced than a sparser portrait would have produced. I read this memoir at the height of my own care-taking marathon, and while I appreciated every gorgeous word, the whole book would have been worth it for this sentence alone: "Yes, I volunteered to take [the care of my aging parents] on, but there was never a moment when I didn't wish to be let off the hook." I breathed a huge sigh of relief: I am not a monster, and I am not the only one to feel that way. I still feel grateful for that sentence.


Who am I?

I am a care aide (aka personal support worker) who has happily worked at an extended care facility for more than twenty years, and as such, I have been a compassionate listener to many a family member suffering from the tsunami of feelings involved when coping with aging parents or spouses, so I thought I would be well-positioned and emotionally prepared to cope when it was my turn to face my own mother's deterioration. How wrong I was! Thank goodness for the generous souls who write memoirs. Each of the books that I have chosen was an education and an affirmation to me as I tried to maintain my equilibrium while supporting my mother and my mother-in-law through their final years.


I wrote...

A Funny Kind of Paradise

By Jo Owens,

Book cover of A Funny Kind of Paradise

What is my book about?

A Funny Kind of Paradise is a novel about a strong, independent woman who, because of a debilitating stroke, ends up in an extended care facility, partially paralyzed, mute, and tube-fed. But Francesca still has a strong will to live, and a great sense of humour, and she is surprised to find herself deeply engaged in the lives the residents she lives with and the workers who look after them all. The daily routines and dramas Fran witnesses lead her to reconsider her past, in particular her role as a single parent to her children.

A Funny Kind of Paradise is a warm and insightful novel about one woman's opportunity for reinvention--for unconditional love, acceptance, and closure--in the unlikeliest of places.

All Adults Here

By Emma Straub,

Book cover of All Adults Here

All Adults Here is a summer read—when you just want something light. It’s a family drama, which I always enjoy, and always seem to write about myself. Plus, its protagonist, Astrid Strick, who, at sixty-eight, comes out to her family as bisexual, makes me really happy. I mean, older people have sexual needs too! There’s also a lovely transgendered character, her son. Really, the book is about inclusivity, and that’s a theme that always sings for me. And Emma Straub is just a beautiful writer.


Who am I?

Being an out lesbian isn't my sole identity. I'm a writer of five award-winning novels, an improv artist, and co-founder of an improv school—and I’m even more than that. I wake up in the morning, brush my teeth, make myself a cup of tea, like to cook, like to walk, and adore reading—especially fiction. And while I am madly in love with my partner of 30 years (wife of 5) it's just one aspect of my life. My point being, LGBTQ2+ people do more than “be gay”. I like books that reflect this. I love a writer who crafts beautiful sentences, constructs imaginative stories, and provides me with endings I didn’t see coming.


I wrote...

Perfect Little World

By Clifford Henderson,

Book cover of Perfect Little World

What is my book about?

Portland, Oregon, 1989: Lucy Mustin, living somewhat happily, pumping out wedding cakes for starry-eyed heterosexuals while she, a lesbian, can’t legally marry, is called upon to travel to Santa Cruz to help her autistic sister, Alice, care for their Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother. She knew the call was coming sooner or later. She’d just hoped it would be later. Mother issues. The possibility that resolution might be lost to dementia is a heartbreak she doesn’t feel like feeling. 

Santa Cruz, California, one week later: a trip to the family bakery collides with the Loma Prieta 7.1 Earthquake, and the sisters are trapped below ground. There, Alice reminds Lucy of an unthinkable promise she made to their mother many years ago, a promise she plans to keep.

The Home Stretch

By George K. Ilsley,

Book cover of The Home Stretch: A Father, a Son, and All the Things They Never Talk about

When I read memoirs about aging parents, loss is usually an important theme; Ilsley's memoir stands out because his regret is for a closeness that never was. "Only now, as my father enters his nineties . . . and my aspirations of eldercare become more interventionist, has our relationship had a chance to deepen.

"And by deepen, I mean really begin to annoy each other."

Ilsley's relationship with his father is challenging. There are good reasons why Ilsley chooses to live in Vancouver rather than "home" in Nova Scotia. But his father is still is his father, and Ilsley commits. His writing is clear, candid, thoughtful, and so warm and funny. I loved this book.


Who am I?

I am a care aide (aka personal support worker) who has happily worked at an extended care facility for more than twenty years, and as such, I have been a compassionate listener to many a family member suffering from the tsunami of feelings involved when coping with aging parents or spouses, so I thought I would be well-positioned and emotionally prepared to cope when it was my turn to face my own mother's deterioration. How wrong I was! Thank goodness for the generous souls who write memoirs. Each of the books that I have chosen was an education and an affirmation to me as I tried to maintain my equilibrium while supporting my mother and my mother-in-law through their final years.


I wrote...

A Funny Kind of Paradise

By Jo Owens,

Book cover of A Funny Kind of Paradise

What is my book about?

A Funny Kind of Paradise is a novel about a strong, independent woman who, because of a debilitating stroke, ends up in an extended care facility, partially paralyzed, mute, and tube-fed. But Francesca still has a strong will to live, and a great sense of humour, and she is surprised to find herself deeply engaged in the lives the residents she lives with and the workers who look after them all. The daily routines and dramas Fran witnesses lead her to reconsider her past, in particular her role as a single parent to her children.

A Funny Kind of Paradise is a warm and insightful novel about one woman's opportunity for reinvention--for unconditional love, acceptance, and closure--in the unlikeliest of places.

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