Experts and former caregivers write books and blogs, and create websites to provide information that will help make caregiving easier. But they aren’t solving the real problem, which is that it’s really overwhelming to have to read and sort through all these resources in the first place.

It makes you feel like you have to become an aging expert – and practically learn an entirely new profession — just to make sure your parents are safe.  It’s a whole other job on top of the one you already have and the care you are already providing your mom or dad.

Also, if you are like me, there are just so many things you’d rather do — like walk your dogs or  spend time with your kids — than frantically search online for information. But what often happens is that you aren’t prepared and then you get caught out! – mom’s in the hospital and you do NOT know about observation stays and hospital-induced delirium or how to find a decent rehab situation and then you feel surprised, scared and like a failure!!

You need a shortcut that will give you some preparation without all of the overwhelm. One of my recommended strategies – when you’ve had a crisis or are anticipating one – is to get to the library or bookstore and consult a few good books. Treat them like resources that you don’t read in one sitting but that you familiarize yourself with and then use as your needs arise — to prevent or manage the next crisis.

So, to help you do this — check out these reviews of my top 7 favorite books on how to be a caregiver.

But, remember that even with good resources on your bookshelf, you’re still up against the truth that …. no matter how much planning you do, there’s no substitute for experience. So, don’t feel bad if you can’t get a handle on all the stuff you feel like you need to know. At the end of the day, do a little planning, stay calm and know that you just have to live it.  


1. How to Care for Aging Parents by Virginia Morris

Of all the general handbooks written by experts, this one is my favorite. It covers everything that you need to know. There are sections on handling paperwork, deciding where your parent should live, and adapting to new roles. It’s written extremely well and is an easy read. If you only read the last section entitled, “the Last Good-bye,” it’ll be well worth your money and time.


2. Medicare for Dummies by Patricia Barry

Medicare is the health insurance program that pays for your parent’s hospitalizations and doctors. And, you will, at some point, be dealing with it. Fortunately, Patricia Barry knows more about Medicare than most Medicare analysts here in Washington. Despite the “for Dummies” title, this is a dense handbook so this one you’ll especially want to pick and choose what you need, rather than trying to read it all in one sitting.


3. Handbook for Mortals: Guidance for People Facing Serious Illness by Joanne Lynn, Joan Harrold, and Janice Lynch Shuster

This book is quite literally a guidebook for dying in modern America …. and like the other handbooks, it’s very comprehensive. While it’s aimed at a broader audience than just caregivers of aging parents, there are a few chapters that are especially helpful: Deciding about Medical Interventions, and Coping with Events Near Death.


4. A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents and Ourselves by Jane Gross

An experienced journalist, Jane Gross has written a memoir that generously describes her caregiving journey with her aging mother.  Always transparent about her own desires and wishes, she shares about where she might have made wrong turns while at the same time making a strong case for how the system fails us all. The end result is you get great advice and information without feeling like you’re reading a “How to..” handbook.


5. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? By Roz Chast

I love this book so much. Both hilarious and heartbreaking; I laughed OUT LOUD while reading it. Roz Chast uses her considerable skills as a cartoonist (she’s a staff cartoonist at the New Yorker) to create this memoir about her parents’ old age. What she captures is the reality of prolonged dying and all of the decisions and issues it raises.


6. The Dutiful Daughter’s Guide to Caregiving: A Practical Memoir by Judith Henry

This is a combo memoir handbook. It’s a well-written, SHORT and SMALL little book you can put in your bag and carry around with you. Judith gets that we don’t really need an exhaustive list of what to do as much as we need to know the essential things to do. Her chapter on “HIPAA, SCHMIPPA” gives great, easy insight into the most important first step in becoming your parent’s advocate.


7. The Gift of Caring: Saving Our Parents from the Perils of Modern Healthcare by Marcy Cottrell Houle and Elizabeth Eckstrom

This book has a really interesting approach. Marcy Cottrell Houle – a professional writer – writes a memoir about caring for her Dad with Alzheimers and her frail mother. The story is interspersed with expert advice from Dr. Eckstrom that the author wishes she had known about avoiding pitfalls in our modern healthcare system. It’s new and definitely will serve you well.