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The Reluctant Caregiver: Missives from the Family Caregiving Minefields Paperback – November 22, 2017
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- Publisher : Draft2Digital (November 22, 2017)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 227 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1386197610
- ISBN-13 : 978-1386197614
- Item Weight : 9.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.52 x 8.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #6,147,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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In the field of caretaking, Joy Johnston’s THE RELUCTANT CAREGIVER is a tonic. Her accounts of the prolonged decline and demise of her father and then her mother are in many ways sad stories, containing strong complaints and plenty of details about what can make taking care of ill, elderly people both draining and unpleasant. Like a tonic, her story contains tastes that are sour, bitter and sometimes hard to get and keep down.
At the same time THE RELUCTANT CAREGIVER bristles with honesty, as Johnston wrestles with guilt, resistance, and sometimes disgust but keeps carrying out necessary tasks, with grace, honor and sometimes humor. She manages to convey the surreal qualities of facing death with a family member. The grief is substantial but, as anyone who has ever had a serious illness knows, an odd and comforting fellowship forms among small groups of people who learn by experience to find the humor in terrifying events.
Like the stories of their declines, Johnston’s portraits of her parents before their illnesses are scars-and-all, unique mixtures of bitter, sweet and strange flavors. She may well see predominantly faults, but you sense a feeling of honor and affection as well.
Tonics didn’t always work. Sometimes people got sicker and weaker and even died. Those who care for sick friends and relatives may point out that even the complex medications and medical procedures that made tonics a thing of the past don’t always work either. Johnston, though, offers a complicated mixture of strong spirit and dedication, no matter how reluctant, that can prove a tonic to others.
In this story, Johnston tells her truth in a raw, sarcastic and caring way. There are times where you may snicker, when you feel the heartache or even the frustration with her as she details the events she deals with. There are several parts of this telling of her life that one may even relate to even if you have not been in the same type of situation she has been through. What is extremely special about The Reluctant Caregiver, is that she tells it as she experienced it, not what is expected. The feeling of not being alone in everything you are going through or have gone through is a strong aspect of this book.
Johnston leaves one feeling a new special admiration for caregivers and their strength if you have ever been a caregiver, still are a caregiver or have yet had that experience.
Johnston engages the reader in a way that makes a heart-breaking event a little light-hearted and humorous. I was expecting to like this book the way that I did. I have never had to care for my parents, yet., but I think I learned a thing, or two, about never taking your parents for granted, because one day they won't be there anymore. I would recommend this book to anyone who is in a caregiver position now, or potentially may be in the future. "The Reluctant Caregiver" is an honest, raw, depiction of the caregivers role, and I believe it's something that needs to be read.
Top reviews from other countries
The thing that threads its way through the book is summed up in her stark sentence: ‘The predetermined ending smacks of failure.’ In The Reluctant Caregiver we see someone trying to come to terms with the absurdity of death and its attendant situations – both for the one who’s dying and for the caregiver. From comments on the guilt felt to feelings of utter helplessness, Joy Johnston reveals in a haunting, emotive set of essays what it feels like and how it is being a caregiver to two dying parents. She seems to be struggling with the tension between the two extremes of careful control (she is a self-confessed ‘control freak’) and unreserved chaos.
I started this review with the word ‘appreciated’ simply because ‘loved’ seems somehow wrong – but I have to admit to loving The Reluctant Caregiver. It says it as it is, not as we’d like it to be. It is self-depreciating, though we guess that Joy gives care better than she thinks she does! Joy describes the situations so vividly that you think the deaths occurred recently, not years ago. She is honest about her own agonising guilt and her ‘faults as a daughter’, describing herself as ‘the world’s worst caregiver’ – but what fills my mind as I read it is the daughter’s obvious and understated love of her parents (both of whom had their faults), and her attempts at care-giving that clearly went against everything she is as a person. Surely, that is humanity at its best, isn’t it? Yes, I loved this book!
While much of the subject matter of “The Reluctant Caregiver” could be considered grim or melancholy, Johnston's humorous narrative voice keeps it engaging. She doesn't hold back when she talks about the hard truths of her experience, mentioning alcoholism and colostomy bags just as easily as she talks about her cats, and this ensures that the reader wants to power through with her rather than giving up when the subject turns dark. The language is colloquial, with a good amount of punny humor and self-depreciation to make up for some of the less than pleasant subjects.
Many books about caring, whether as an occupation or for a family member, talk about the positive sides of the experience or how it came to benefit their lives. “The Reluctant Caregiver” doesn't do this. In many ways, Joy Johnston's story comes across as quite bitter. She doesn't hold back from pointing out the flaws within her parents or hide the terrible aspects of waiting for a terminally ill loved one to die. The language she uses, even with the jokes and witticisms, is angry. It isn't a novel that looks back on the experience and talks about how it made her a better person. Instead, it feels like a cathartic piece and I personally feel that it works a lot better because of that. There are no pretences, no patronisation. It's raw and honest and far more beneficial for that reason.
“The Reluctant Caregiver” is never going to be one of my go-to light reading books. It's an intense piece of writing to work through and, while it feels quite cathartic once it's done, it can be hard to get through. It is, however, a book I would recommend to anyone who is in a caregiving position. The honesty, while harsh at times, is something I found refreshing when compared to novels covering similar subjects.
I liked Johnston's writing style, and felt like I was listening to a friend. I even became emotional at times, shedding a few tears when she spoke about her mother's final moments. They reminded me of caring for my own mother through her battle of cancer, though I never had to experience hospice care because my mother passed quite suddenly.
I would recommend this book to other caregivers and anyone who is interested in reading about the caregiving process. While it is emotional at times, that can be expected considering the subject matter. I also wanted to thank the author, if she ever happens to read this, for sharing her story with the world.