As baby boomers careen towards their golden years, they are upending the norm and shifting sensibilities just as they have in every other life stage. And along with this stampede into aging and ailment, they bring with them bookshelves full of advice on how best to navigate caregiving for partner or parent.
Into this crowded genre, a lovely little gem emerges, called A New Look at Caregiving: Two Halves of a Whole. Slim in length, the manual is deceptively deep and useful in its reassurance without the usual claptrap of earnest selflessness or smarmy sentimentality. Author Linda Edgar, who says she is living a caregiver’s life, reveals her premise in the title: that both halves in the equation of caregiver and those cared for must be “on equal footing.” It is an unapologetic, non-negotiable point.
To illustrate her thought, Edgar cites the grim statistic from a recent gerontology study that more than 30% of caregivers will die before the person for whom they are caring.
With each page of suggestion and strategies for problem solving and self-care, she includes a facing page of affirmations from an incredible stable of sources—from Langston Hughes to William Shakespeare; Dr. Seuss to a fortune cookie. While corny in theory, it works well because she has been so diligent in finding sentiments exactly on point. When suggesting caregivers cut themselves some slack, for example, she quotes the words of singer Lena Horne: “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it is the way you carry it.”
The writing is fresh and the advice feels like something an overwhelmed caregiver might turn to over and over again. Much of it is not new, such as finding humor in the mundane and painful. But her style is spare and sly. It is the unexpected twists that lift it from the ordinary: “Laughter is internal jogging,” she writes of stress relief.
The goal for anyone struggling to maintain themselves while caregiving is to find harmony in a difficult day-to-day existence. Edgar calls it “enlightenment and laundry.” Bingo.