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The Unexpected Journey of Caring: The Transformation from Loved One to Caregiver Hardcover – June 5, 2019

4.3 out of 5 stars 36 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


Caregivers often sacrifice their own health and relationships to take care of loved ones, which is a big problem in the United States, where nearly 45 million Americans provide unpaid care to an adult or child with medical problems or chronic conditions. The authors, caregiving bloggers, recommend online forums and Facebook groups as wonderful sources of support at 3 a.m., and note that libraries offer book groups, talks, and film screenings. They authors share their own stories: one quit her job and left her husband and daughter to move in with her mom, who had early-onset Alzheimer’s. Another found her son’s care needs increase after his severe cerebral palsy caused his right hip to dislocate. This guide is best when it provides statistics (10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, and 70 percent of them will need long-term care for an average of three years) and advice (what tasks could someone else do?). PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff, whose older son needs help with “almost all activities of daily living,” provides a foreword recognizing the nation’s “silent army” of caregivers. ― Booklist

The book describes the inherent challenges impacting caregivers. The chapters are organized into two phases. The first phase focuses on how caregiver life expectations are reshaped and remolded through initial disorientation and role change. The second phase provides an algorithm for reorientation and advocacy. Thomson and White provide a realistic, well-described process of the caregiving journey. They address repatterned thinking that develops, as unraveling threads of past expectations for the future become contrasted against present reality. The authors address the trespass of societal and cultural boundaries with the need for human understanding. The book authentically prepares caregivers for the quest of normalcy and life balance while addressing a myriad of challenges, including painful isolation, emotional exhaustion, and unyielding toxic stress. Personal narratives engage the reader, demonstrating the way in which caregiving misdirects assumptions for the future by fastening caregivers to their present reality. The latter chapters focus on empowerment, adaptation strategies, and strength-building autonomy to leverage against caregiver challenges. Directions for building community sharing provide meaning, hope, and promise to successfully navigate the often invisible lives of caregivers.

Speaker and consultant Thomson. . . and White, associate professor at Queens University in Charlotte, N.C., provide gentle guidance to help readers who are becoming caregivers in this instructive guide. The authors write honestly about the feelings of loss during this transition, including grief over a future that will not happen. They explore the feeling of disorientation during the initial months of caregiving while recognizing how the caregiver’s relationships with one’s own family and friends can be affected, manifesting commonly in intolerance or disappointment. In their “A New Way of Seeing and Being” that concludes each chapter, they ask readers to optimistically reframe the hardships of caregiving by emphasizing that “our responsibilities and connections highlight how we are rooted

and grounded with others.” The book includes a variety of practical and tangible actions for the caregiver, including resources and advice on how to navigate both real-life and online support systems, strategies for getting help from one’s social network, and advice for contacting medical professionals. Specific tools such as the ABCD (Asset Based Community Development) approach and Atlas CareMaps (as well as specific libraries and community centers) are also included. Any caregiver will find an abundance of assistance here. ―
Publishers Weekly

Informed by original caregiver research and proven advocacy strategies, this book speaks to caregiving as it unfolds, in all of its confusion, chaos, and messiness. Readers won’t find well-intentioned clichés or care stereotypes in this book. There are no promises to help caregivers return to a life they knew before caregiving. No, this book greets caregivers where they are in their journey—new or chronic—not where others expect (or want) them to be.
Well Spouse Association

This book should be read by not only caregivers but also health professionals and leaders . . . [Thomson and White provide] a personal and authentic picture of not only the caregiver experience but also the complexity of caregiving today. ―
Healthcare Quarterly

. . . inspirational, helpful and very relatable. . . . a hyper-honest look at what it's like to be a caregiver, whether for a child, a spouse or a family member, with invaluable reassurances and resources.
Love That Max

Nobody grows up planning to be a caregiver, but many of us will become one and sometimes when we least expect it. Donna Thomson and Zachary White bring powerful insights to help us understand what it means to be a caregiver and how to truly support those of us who will travel this unexpected journey. -- Samir K. Sinha, Director of Geriatrics, Sinai Health System and University Health Network, Toronto and Health Policy Research Director, National Institute on Ageing (Canada)

One is never prepared to be a caregiver for a terminally ill spouse. The physical and emotional consequences of the role are devastating. Thomson and White expertly describe the effects of being a caregiver, including effects one might not be aware of, and the transformation that takes place in our lives because of our caregiving role. -- Pamela D. Larsen, PhD, RN, University of Wyoming, editor of Lubkins Chronic Illness: Impact and Intervention (10th Edition)

This is much more than a story about caregiving for a child with a disability. In The Unexpected Journey of Caring: The Transformation from Loved One to Caregiver, Donna Thomson and Zachary White remind us that living as a caregiver is a state of both being and becoming. This book made me think about the importance of providing opportunities for parents of children with disability to share their experiences with caregiving, and to understand what it means for them to be a caregiver. We learn to ask what caregivers need on their journey becoming a complete person. Through this powerful book I hope we dare to have true conversations between caring families and health professionals. After all, caring for caregivers is as much about us (health professionals) as about them (caregiving parents)! To the journey! -- Jan Willem Gorter, Director of CanChild Research Center, McMaster University

Recognizing that each caregiving situation is unique, Zachary White and Donna Thomson bring readers into that life. Common threads bind all caregivers regardless of the illness or relationship to our beloved care recipients. They describe the inexorable transformation into “caregiver” in a story EVERYONE should read. This book details the psyche of caregiving – how it can change you forever; as well as the physical and daily duties of such ‘work’ in easily understood terms. Best of all, it gives caregivers ideas on navigating the inevitable roadblocks and surviving this under-recognized segment of American society – 45 million family caregiving heroes! -- Lawrence Bocchiere, President Emeritus/COB, The Well Spouse® Association

Everyone who spends months and years caring for someone who isn’t getting better will find that Donna Thomson and Zachary White have given voice to their inner feelings and thoughts. They will find comfort and counsel in the authors' wise observations. -- Rajiv Mehta, Founder and CEO of Atlas Caregiving

There are many entry points into a good life for ourselves and those we love. That said, if someone offers you a road map to their version of your worthy end, you ought to be very wary. In this most refreshing and authentic book, no road maps are prescribed. Instead a compass is offered, lovingly brought together from Donna Thomson’s lived experience as a mother, carer and advocate and Zachary White’s experience as an authentic and reflective civic practitioner. Every page is embossed with hard won nuggets of wisdom from each of their domains and the interface between their experiences. If you are searching for genuine companions on the journey towards the Good Life, look no further. -- Cormac Russell, Faculty ABCD Institute, Director of Asset-based Community Development in Europe

Finally! A totally honest assessment of the caregiving experience. Not just another workbook, disease specific account or “how to” book (though there are many helpful guidelines), but a no-nonsense look at the ongoing reality and challenges of how the caregiving experience changes your life. Fear, anger, the unknown—normalcy—are dealt with in a direct, caring and expert manner. Whether you are a “newbie” or a long-term caregiver, this book illustrates all we have in common and gives us guidelines to cope wherever we are in our journey. -- Adrienne Gruberg, Founder and President, The Caregiver Space

The Unexpected Journey of Caring provides insights into the mind and heart of the family caregiver. After reading this book you’ll better understand the caregiving emotions and thoughts which can feel so confusing and lead to so much guilt! Thomson and White share the very good reasons why you feel as you do. They also offer solutions and tools you can use to feel better because you can. If you’re a health care professional, this book will equip you to better understand and help those family caregivers you encounter every day. -- Denise M. Brown, founder of and the National Caregiving Conference

Donna Thomson and Zachary Taylor have produced a powerful and poignant work on caregiving. Caregivers who read this book will find comforting words, welcome affirmation, and profound insights into their experiences. The Unexpected Journey of Caring: The Transformation from Loved one to Caregiver is most remarkable because it is not only practical but also philosophical: it represents a definitive guide to understanding the phenomenon of caregiving within the context of human relations. -- Dr. Aaron Blight, Founder, Caregiving Kinetics

About the Author

Donna Thomson is the author of The Four Walls of My Freedom: Lessons I’ve Learned From a Life of Caregiving. She is a consultant and speaker on issues relating to family caregiving, disability and aging. Donna is a patient and family advisor on health research and policy and she teaches family caregivers in Canada how to advocate for care in hospital and in the community. She blogs regularly at THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM (

Zachary White, PhD, is an award winning university professor who teaches undergraduate and graduate courses
As the founder of the caregiver blog and resource “The Unprepared Caregiver” (, his original writing voice mixes first-hand experiences, communication expertise, and cultural analysis featuring a care-centered point of view.
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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (June 5, 2019)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 256 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1538122235
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1538122235
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.02 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.75 x 0.83 x 8.82 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.3 out of 5 stars 36 ratings

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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
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Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on August 23, 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for any caregiver, or anyone who even KNOWS a caregiver
By Kimberly P. on June 21, 2019
I am the caregiver for my elderly grandmother with Parkinson’s and this book has helped me so much already. It touches parts of caregiving not seen by the public eye... the hard truths and long nights, fear and frustrations, the way it changes your life continuously day by day . Very much recommended
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Top reviews from other countries

Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read. One never knows when the caregiver role will be thrust upon you.
Reviewed in Canada 🇨🇦 on June 30, 2019