3 out of 4 stars
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When a parent is aging, many changes can occur regarding health, personality, living accommodations, and other aspects of life. The time will come when the parent’s child—or children—will have important questions needing quick and correct answers: What help does my parent need, and what is the best way to get that help? Who will be the caretaker? Stefania Shaffer, an English teacher with a variety of work experience, was her mother’s caretaker. She has written a book that includes both general information and a very detailed account of her mother’s final years. This nonfiction book appealed to me since I have an elderly mother, and books are my favorite resources for information.
I found this book to be informative and engaging, but not in the way I was expecting. Based on the title-- Nine Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent—I assumed the author would identify common problems and the best resources for solving them, and that related personal experiences would be used to show how useful the technical information can be. Instead, this book is a memoir first, with information that is specifically about Shaffer’s mother’s situation. This is very well done, and includes details about the rest of the family and Shaffer in particular. The honesty regarding family relationships and occasional negative situations was very impressive. I was frequently reminded of things that have happened to my family and friends. I did not want to put this book down and do something else. I wanted to keep reading.
While the writing is very impressive, I’m not sure that the technical information is given in the best way. Stories about a particular problem and how it was resolved do have a lot of detail, but it’s not always clear if it’s the best way to resolve issues. In the preface, the author indicates the book is “Designed to be an indispensable guide for all decision makers in your family…I have the benefit of experience and can walk you down this path so there are no misunderstandings.” I think it would be a bit more helpful if research was specified, and readers were urged to find what the best options would be for them, based on the state they live in if necessary. The author does use some statistics, especially in Chapter 1. There is a “Notes and Resources” section at the end of the book that relates to several chapters. This is helpful, but compared to the length of the book—almost 500 pages in my copy—most of the information does seem to be the author’s experience, without indicating other possible choices, or why the ones used were better than others. I think more specific information would be helpful to readers, and would verify (rather than letting the reader assume) that the choices were well made.
The most difficult thing in reviewing this book has been deciding how to rate it. After much thought and re-reading, I am giving it 3 out of 4 stars. I wonder if something relatively simple, like changing the title, might put the expectations I had in better alignment. A Love Story of a Different Kind: Experiences of Caring for an Elderly Parent, for example, might have given me a better idea of what to expect.
There’s a difference between “This was my experience, and I think things went well” and “This is the best way for taking care of a situation.” In spite of my concerns, if you have elderly parents I do highly recommend this book. We don’t know what will happen in our lives, but a memoir written with this kind of detail will reassure us that what needs to be done can be done, and done well. It’s possible that you will learn about some problems you never thought about--and you may find a number of things in common with Stefania Shaffer.
9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent
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