Our Daily Book Focus is on “When Someone You Love Has a Chronic Illness,” written by Dr. Tmara McClintock Greenberg.
Thanks to advances in science and medicine the lifespan of the average American is now longer than ever and many illnesses that once would have proven fatal have become manageable, chronic conditions. Great news, right? Sure, but there is another side to the 21st Century health picture””and it is increasingly becoming part of the lives of Americans.
Many more people are living with chronic illness and that means that more than ever family members, friends, and partners are acting in formal and informal caregiving roles. The average life expectancy in 1920 was around 54 years of age. Today it is between 76-80, though many of us can expect to live much longer. Navigating aging and well being in the 21st Century has never been more important, or more complicated.
That’s why Tamara McClintock Greenberg, Psy.D., clinical psychologist, and Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, who specializes in treating individuals with chronic illness and their families, wrote When Someone You Love Has a Chronic Illness: Hope and Help For Those Providing Support,” (Cedar Fort Books, February 2012, ISBN: 978-1-59955-939-1, Trade Paper). In this groundbreaking book McClintock Greenberg shows readers how to provide the best care for their loved ones, without losing themselves.
When family, spouses, and friends are thrust into caregiver roles, they face a variety of psychological and physical challenges. They often find themselves with little support and few resources. They also must address difficult issues such as when a loved one does not follow medical advice, as well as denial, chronic pain and frustration on the part of their struggling loved one. No wonder, then, family members in a caregiver role have higher rates of depression and anxiety than those who aren’t involved in providing care. Vicarious trauma and “compassion fatigue” are common, as are feelings of guilt about having needs of their own and attempts to carve out time for themselves. Self-care can start to seem like a luxury that is out of reach. It’s easy to see how this exacts a steep toll on the caregiver, but new research also tells us that it impacts those being cared for. Studies now show that those who devote sufficient time and energy to their own needs provide better quality care than those who don’t. In other words, we provide better support when we pay attention to our own needs.
So, how can caregivers meet the demands of care giving without sacrificing self-care? Throughout WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS A CHRONIC ILLNESS: HOPE AND HELP FOR THOSE PROVIDING SUPPORT McClintock Greenberg offers compassionate, authoritative, and step-by-step help for striking this critical balance.
Here is just some of what she offers:
Relaxation and anxiety-reducing exercises that can be done anywhere anytime
Guidance for effectively communicating about a loved one’s illness
Help for feeling less isolated and lonely
Tips for addressing denial and non-compliance on the part of a chronically ill loved one
Help for recognizing and coping with vicarious trauma, guilt, and compassion fatigue
Techniques for helping a loved one manage pain
Help for coping with loss