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Take Back Your Life: A Caregiver’s Guide …, by Loren Gelberg-Goff.

May 4, 2018

Take Back Your Life
Take Back Your Life: A Caregiver’s Guide to Finding Freedom in the Midst of Overwhelm, by Loren Gelberg-Goff.  Indie Reader In-store, Feb. 2018.

3 stars

A social worker offers advice for caregivers whom she claims should focus on their own needs rather than becoming overwhelmed with the needs of another.

Loren Gelberg-Goff is a licensed clinical social worker, and her book reflects the views that are predominant in the therapeutic community.  She has self-published this book.  Her advice to caregivers centers on the need for them to learn how to care for themselves in the face of overwhelming demands on their time, energy and identity.  She writes passionately about the dangers of giving too much and offers concepts, worksheets, and exercises designed to help caregivers protect themselves.  Her ideas are mainstream ideas rather than anything new or radical, although they may seem radical to those who like being martyrs.

I am all too aware of just how impossible the role of caregiver can be, especially for those caring for a loved one.  Gelberg-Goff’s particular suggestions seem good ones to consider, at least.   I hope that those who have not learned to care for themselves will find this book useful.  But I am troubled by this book, not so much because of its content, but because of the perspective it puts forth.  Americans have learned that taking take of one’s self is the highest good.  We are told to be self-sufficient individuals rather than to act for the common good.  But many of us are beginning to understand that the problems with our exclusive focus on individuals is inadequate and need to be tempered with a commitment to each ther. Our society today is full of examples of the dangers of unfettered individualism.

Recently, I read and reviewed another book directed primarily to caregivers, Ann Stearns, Redefining Aging, which I found much more insightful than this one.  Stearns does not disagree with the particulars which Gelberg-Golf advises, but she suggests viewing the very real problems from a broader perspective which seeks to integrate the needs of both caregiver and sufferer.   She points out that because our society does not value the work of caregivers so those doing the work need to recognize for themselves its worth.  Some caregivers may find meaning in religion, or long-lasting love for the one for whom they are caring.  Others may see the value in the sheer need for tasks that may seem to be drudgery. Respect for the one under your care is also vital for self-respect, even if he or she is slipping into unappreciative or hateful behavior.  Stearns suggests that there are more possibilities for finding “win-win” solutions than we have even considered.  In caregiving, as in parenting, we need to learn to care for ourselves at the same time we need to care for others.  The risks of under or over involvement are present in both situations.  She never claims that good solutions are always possible, and the acceptance of that fact by caregivers is essential.

While Take Back Your Life has some usefulness, I cannot recommend it over Redefining Aging.  The titles of the two books make the differences between them abundantly clear.  I am a firm believer that aging needs to be redefined. In fact, families, friends, and the whole nation need to come up with affordable solutions to the impossible demands of caregiving that do not pit the caretakers against those needing care.

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