Effective Elder Caregiving

Revised Edition, 2011

by Barbara Rothschild Allen

and Lauren Barrett

Special Delivery Books

“According to former first lady, Rosalynn Carter, there are only four kinds of people in the world: ‘Those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.’ ”

“Twenty-seven million Americans provide an average of over 20 hours a week of care for their parents or other elderly relatives.” —Effective Elder Caregiving

In her book, Effective Elder Caregiving, retired LSU-A professor of developmental psychology and life member of LPA, Barbara Rothschild Allen uses her professional knowledge and personal journey to produce a clear, candid and useful set of ideas for those who provide care for an elder.

Caregiving is a self-help book for those in the “primary” caregiving role, most often a family member who has the affectionate and moral responsibility for the elder.

The book also includes important guidance for those in the “secondary” caregiving role, most often a paid professional. This dual guidance is immensely helpful because, as the authors point out, primary caregivers can rarely handle the responsibilities by themselves. A final perspective, that of the elder care-receiver, rounds out this 360° view of the complexities in elder care, the overlapping duties and complicated relationships, and the needs and challenges in this essential physical, psychological, and spiritual time of life.

Barbara’s contribution as psychological expert runs throughout the work, resulting in factual information and insights to support the reader’s decisions. But perhaps Barbara’s contribution is most heartfelt and poignant in the personal narratives of her own journey caring for her husband Al, to whom the work is dedicated.

Barbara’s psychological perspective and humanity comes through clearly, while also delivering important, practical, and very useable insights for those in the sandwich generation of primary caregivers. She points out that in many cases, responsibility for care falls on people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, but that “the significance of the caregiving demands made on the middle generation has not received much attention from researchers.”

Barbara commented to the Times that the revised edition is gaining more attention, perhaps because more people now find themselves in the caregiving role. Barbara recently spoke to the American Association of University Women in Austin, where the work was very well received. Barbara said that she enjoyed writing the book. “I have done some writing earlier. I was a coauthor for a book on adolescent psychology. And, I felt that I should have done more writing over the years.” She stays away from the computer, instead writing on an electric typewriter that she purchased in 1965 when working on an NIF grant at Berkley.

The goal of the book is to help “start cultivating potential senior caregivers, such as family members, spouses, and friends, as well as paid care providers (employed caregivers)– people who truly like and respect the elderly. Both these groups need to take the training that will transform them into competent, kind, and reliable caregivers.”

Effective Elder Caregiving is designed in three parts, each including short, understandable and concise chapters that stay on track, and in which the authors highlight narratives with important, but not overdone statistics.

Part One, “Primary Caregivers,” includes twenty short chapters that reflect the journey from the first steps of acknowledging the role, to the last stage of the process, the elder’s death. Writing in first person, Barbara describes the practical and psychological challenges encountered by the primary caregivers in heartfelt stories of her own journey, adding insights from her background in life span and developmental psychology.

She highlights issues in “The Sandwich Generation of Primary Caretakers.” Building on more analytic themes in Chapter 3, “Common Psychological Issues Arising Between the Generations,” she reflects on the family relationships that can be encountered. This perspective is repeated throughout, especially in Chapter 11, “How to Recognize and Accept the Need for Outside Help,” Chapters 17 to 20 which address the stages of decline, and finally, “The Death of Your Loved One.”

Another set of topics focus on employment and management: “Interviewing Potential Secondary Caregiving Applicants,” and “Selecting the Best Caregivers to Meet the Patient’s Needs.” Authors deal with practical issues in “Preparing the Elder’s Home for Secondary Caregiver,” “Establishing the Routine for Secondary Caregiver,” “Financing Secondary Caregivers,” and “Distant Primary Caregiving.”

In Part Two, “The Employed Personal Caregiver,” Barbara and coauthor Lauren Barrett, a professional caregiver, point out the knowledge and skills needed by those in this profession. Chapters include: “Desirable Personality Traits of Caregivers,” “Training, Experience and Education,” “Communication Styles and Listening Skills,” and “Morals and Work Ethic.” Issues such as stealing, tolerance, and abuse are discussed candidly, making the book useful as a guide for employers who are also the primary caretaker.

Practical information is abundant, including “Appearance and Personal Habits,” “Your Physical Health,” “Your Mental Health,” and “Financial Concerns.” Chapters on “Do You Have the Right Stuff” and “Working Through Your Personal Issues,” directly address job match, and the fact that not all people are suited for gentle, tolerant and respectful caregiving.

Part Three, “Caregiving from the Patient’s Perspective,” briefly touches on the third viewpoint, that of the elderly patient, and includes “Observations of a Senior Patient” and “Traits of a Desirable Patient.”

Dr. Greg Gormanous, who was a student of Barbara’s, then who became her Chair at LSU-A during the years, wholeheartedly recommends her book, writing “Effective Elder Caregiving is an absolute must read for family members deciding on care for a loved one and for all students who interact with the elderly.”

Barbara Rothschild Allen has written an important self-help book that can make an immediate positive impact on the decisions and thinking of a person thrust into, or gradually taking on the role of primary caregiver, where many in the baby-boomer generation now find themselves.

The book is available on Amazon. However, you can also purchase it directly from Barbara for $20 ($14.95 plus tax and shipping) at 40 N I H 35, Apt 12a2, Austin, TX 78701. And if you ask, she will autograph your copy!

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