The Conscious Caregiver – A Mindful Approach to Caring for Your Loved One without Losing Yourself is an accessible book for family caregivers and those who support them. Blogger and former caregiver, Linda Abbit’s mindful suggestions preserve caregivers’ and care recipients’ dignity and self-respect. Her compassion-filled techniques help reduce feelings of guilt and caregiver stress. Throughout ten chapters, she gently reminds readers to step back and be aware of what they are experiencing and feeling.
Clearly Organized and Accessible
The Conscious Caregiver features easy-to-follow chapters. Each begins with an overview of objectives. While exercises are often glossed over in books, Abbit makes them accessible for the busy caregiver. Instead of losing sleep making sure you don’t forget something, her checklists, questions, role plays and more, help you to remember. You may even find ideas you hadn’t considered. When you’re tired and can’t think, case studies of what others have done help bring to life what you’ve read. Finally, each chapter concludes with a bulleted summary.
There were a few instances, where you might say, “There’s no way, I can do this.” Keep reading and her words of reason prevail over doubt. She acknowledges there are exceptions for some families and offers ways to work around obstacles, such as uncooperative family members or rude doctors.
Here are six highlights to give you a flavor of Conscious Caregiver.
Colleen and Caregiver Burnout
Short and realistic case studies. For example, Colleen, a caregiver for her father asks people for help with specific tasks. She shares weekly updates to inform her support team who then feel vested. She ends up feeling better and not alone. (p.43).
Spiraling Benefits of Self-Care
Caregivers often juggle too many responsibilities. They feel greater stress when an expert advises them to take care of themselves. Abbit shares a case study of how small steps toward self-care have a positive spiral effect. Initially, a little self-care results in an elevated mood. Another step leads to happiness, which encourages more acts of self-care, leading to a more relaxed state. This is better for both the caregiver and the person receiving care (page 65).
Any tips that help us focus on how we communicate with loved ones – the words we use, our tone of voice, and other nonverbal modes of communication – will strengthen our connections. Abbit sensitively addresses issues with mutual respect in Chapter 4. Caregivers, people with memory-impairment, or those having difficulty hearing, retain a sense of dignity following these tips. We better appreciate the effect of our communications when we visualize being the recipient of our own communications. This is a powerful tool that goes beyond caregiving, impacting the rest of our lives (p. 91).
Advocating for Your Loved One and Yourself
In chapter 6, she describes the various roles of potential members on your loved one’s medical team and how to communicate with them to ensure optimal care. As in every other chapter, she reminds you the caregiver to take time for a little self-care.
Tips for Considering Residential Care
While most of us want to age in our homes, geographically widespread families make it nearly impossible to live safely at home, alone without familial support. When it’s time to weigh your options, there is a lot to consider. Abbit offers six pages of questions you can ask to ensure you and your loved one make a wise decision regarding assisted living or memory care (pages 183-188).
Throughout the book are boxed digestible morsels for caregivers called “Conscious Connections” In one, she shares something family members may not notice. “Long-married couples are very good about ‘covering’ for each other’s weaknesses or deficits.” Only after one is hospitalized, do family members notice how poorly the other one is doing at home (p.119).
The Conscious Caregiver is one of the more grounded and realistically approachable books for family caregivers and professionals.
Linda Abbit maintains a Facebook presence at Tender Loving Eldercare, to help ease the journey for caregivers.