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Passages in Caregiving

Turning Chaos into Confidence

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


“One of those rare books that can drastically lighten even the heaviest of loads.”
—Rosalynn Carter

“Trust me: there is no better guide to caregiving.”
 —Bill Moyers

Gail Sheehy, author of the groundbreaking Passages—which was a New York Times bestseller for more than three years—now brings us Passages in Caregiving. In this essential guide, the acclaimed expert on the now aging Baby Boomer generation outlines nine crucial steps for effective, successful family caregiving, turning chaos into confidence during this most crucial of life stages.

From Publishers Weekly

May 10, 2010 – Like the 44 million other Americans caring for an ill or elderly person in their homes, prolific writer Sheehy looked after her late husband Clay Felker while he battled cancer for more than a decade. Having already chronicled almost every stage in baby boomer life (most notably in 1976's Passages), Sheehy offers an empathetic, well-researched guide to an unfamiliar, often scary role to which boomers are being initiated, outlining eight stages of caregiving from "Shock and Mobilization" to "The Long Good-Bye." Along with doctors and nurses, home caregivers have become the backbone of the (admittedly broken) U.S. health-care system, and an increasingly important part of a patient's decision-making team. As such, Sheehy contends, caregivers are in desperate need of knowledge and support, and this resourceful manifesto provides it, including practical steps to take, strategies for each point of care, likely obstacles for both patient and caregiver, and a lucid explanation of what's to come: "My intention is to illuminate the challenges and rewards inherent in the caregiving passage to identify universal patterns in the chaos and give the journey a form that makes sense." Sheehy achieves her goal ably, providing a steady beacon during a time of great sadness and overwhelming responsibility.

Customer Reviews

Help For The Affluent

Review of Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence by Gail Sheehy

Gail Sheehy is a writer who became well-known with her books Passages and Hillary’s Choice, a biography of Hillary Clinton. Sheehy built her career as a literary journalist.

In Passages in Caregiving, Sheehy uses her journalistic style to report on eight stages of caregiving, which she calls “Turnings.” The stages range from “shock and mobilization” to “the long goodbye.” Sheehy offers strategies for solving the problems associated with each turning.

Throughout the book, Sheehy offers a memoir about caring for her ailing husband for seventeen years. He’d been a foremost pioneer in the editing and magazine industry, as well as a professor. She takes the reader on their journey in personal narrative. There is no guidebook for such an individual path, so Sheehy shows the reader how she literally took one day at a time. She says she attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for support and stability.

Sheehy also includes the narratives of others who are caregiving. These stories were obtained when Sheehy had the opportunity to interview them at crucial turning points. Additionally, there is an extensive index for ease of reference to any topic, ranging from objective needs (finding a hospice) to subjective feelings (such as guilt). Resources are included in the book, but some of them are not available to the typical American caregiver. For example, Sheehy suggests hiring a research guide to navigate the internet for you, summarize the findings, and report the results to you.

In his late seventies, my stepfather is the primary caregiver for my mother, who has terminal cancer and Alzheimer’s. Their story is one millions making due within the confines of Social Security and Medicare.

Herein lies my inability to relate to Gail Sheehy’s journey. Yes, she writes about universal emotions like anger, anxiety, and enduring love. However, I was rankled by her assumption that there is financial equality when coping with challenges. For example, she flew her husband to France to luxuriate in Monet’s gardens (Dad will be fortunate to purchase a calendar of Monet’s images for Mom). Sheehy went on a daylong retreat for caregivers to walk a labyrinth. (Thanks to state-aid respite, Dad gets Monday mornings off to get groceries). When Sheehy’s husband Clay decides he wants to work, they buy another house in Berkley. (Dad will be lucky not to lose his one house due to medical bills). I felt as though Sheehy’s inclusion of the minimal resources for low-income citizens was perfunctory and patronizing.

Sheehy says, “To avoid high cost, low competence, and maddening bureaucracy, many care seekers find home aides through word of mouth, commonly referred to the ‘gray market.’ . . . “The going rate for gray-market health aides is $20/hour plus overtime.” Who can afford that?
Another area of disconnect was in Gail Sheehy’s presumption that families can overcome their conflicts to come together for caregiving. That leaves out families with felons who cannot face each other, or where it would be deleterious to do so. Her position is overly optimistic (or mine is too pessimistic).

As always, Gail Sheehy’s writing is topnotch. How can a reader find fault with this award winning author who adeptly wove the narrative style with journalism? I appreciate the choices she made to be a responsible caregiver, and the generosity of her sharing. Passages in Caregiving will be on my shelf for reference on some challenges that apply to both the haves and the have-nots.
Review completed by Lynn C. Tolson, author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story

Passages in Caregiving
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  • $10.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Self-Improvement
  • Published: May 04, 2010
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books
  • Print Length: 416 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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