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Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence Hardcover – May 4, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 107 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.

From Booklist

Thrust into the daunting and unexpected role of caregiver when her husband, editor Clay Felker, was diagnosed with cancer, Sheehy was dismayed to find herself lost in the labyrinthine, illogical, and often contradictory world of health care. When second opinions gave way to thirds, and innumerable insurance forms were completed only to have the claims rejected, Sheehy realized she needed answers, assistance, and attitude. For a tenacious reporter like Sheehy, getting answers was second nature but finding competent help and learning how to put things into perspective weren’t as easy. Sheehy reports on her interviews with professionals in traditional and alternative medicine, registered nurses and home health aides, and diverse individuals who also found themselves overwhelmed by caring for an ailing loved one, and she distills the process into eight stages, from the shock of the first diagnosis to the delicacy of saying good-bye, bringing her inimitable, analytical approach to a situation no one wants to face. Supportive and reassuring, Sheehy provides encouraging and practical information for both patient and caregiver in one of the most comprehensive and trustworthy resources a family can ask for when facing one of life’s most disheartening challenges. --Carol Haggas
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061661201
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061661204
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #865,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lynn C. Tolson on October 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
everyone's experience will be different in so many respects.

I've been a caregiver for my wife for over 30 years, and many of Sheehy's suggestions and resources were helpful (or would have been helpful) to both of us over the years. And, it's always interesting to learn about other people's experiences -- sometimes they are extraordinarily helpful.

One example: about 27 years ago I saw a public television documentary about a young couple with a small child, the husband with an incurable form of cancer and with a life expectancy in months. The young wife was poorly educated but very articulate: she worried about how well she was able to care for her husband, whether she was caring for her child properly, what she would do once her husband was gone to care for herself and her child.

On the purely human level, she confessed that she wished her husband were dead -- her life and her child's life would be much better, and neither of them were able to do anyting really important for their husband and father. A few moments later she was very angry at herself for her betrayal of her husband, and guilty, wondering if she was an evil person in the sight of God. The human agony she expressed was heart breaking -- and instructive for me.

Many times over the past several years I've worried whether I've done all I could, or as well as I could, to help my wife. Every time, though, that I started to feel guilty about those failures, I remembered that young woman and the extra self induced agony she was adding to her own life. She's inspired me many times to simply acknowledge that I could have done something better ... inspired me to resolve to do better in the future ... and simply prevent myself from feeling the guilt attendant to my failings.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Gail Sheehy's "Passages" is really three different books. One part of the book is a memoir of her experience caring for her husband Clay Felker during his long physical decline. As another reviewer Sheila wrote, "Passages is written by someone with the money and resources to do whatever needs to be done." Sheehy's personal narrative is set in delicate italic type and is the story of how she used the privilege and celebrity of both her and her husband to get him decent care. They had access to famous doctors eager to be associated with them, along with hypnotists, nutritionists, acupuncturists, personal yoga instructors, psychotherapists and a full time housekeeper. When things got too stressful for her, Sheehy would go to a spa for rejuvenation. Sheehy is telling the truth about her own life, but she treats her privilege as a norm.

Interspersed with Sheehy's memoir, is a section set apart (at least in my review copy) called "Strategies." This part of the book uses a drab san serif font and is set into an even drabber gray box on the page. It consists of plainly written suggestions (which are easily available elsewhere) for us non-famous, non-rich, non-celebrity folks, like taking up gardening or an old hobby to reduce stress (no spa time for us!). The third part of the book consists of case histories, where Sheehy dutifully went around the country and interviewed couples and families who care for for ill and aging relatives. Again, it's the kind of information that's available elsewhere and the writing feels like Sheehy wasn't particularly engaged with her subjects. I haven't read any of Sheehy's other books which may have the same format, but I found this book oddly organized. The abrupt change of tone between Sheehy's description of her own experience and rest of the book makes it editorially jarring.
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