“How do you care for yourself when you feel you are taking care of the rest of the world?” This is the first line of Benjamin Pratt’s A Guide For Caregivers, in which he offers insights and tips on “keeping your spirit healthy when your caregiving duties and responsibilities are dragging you down” (which comprises the book’s subtitle).
Anyone that has been a caregiver for any period of time knows that it’s an exhausting role, and not always in the physical sense. There are some things in a caregiver’s journey that cannot be fixed by getting a good night’s rest and eating enough protein, fruits and whole grains.
That’s what makes Pratt’s book unique, in my opinion. It’s a view of the caregiver as a spiritual being, as a person who is likely to get burned out, bitter, apathetic or sad. He offers solutions for coping with the inevitable rise and fall of emotions that many caregivers experience, and the subsequent exhaustion and weariness that comes with it. He guides readers in a gentle, thoughtful way to evaluate the health of their spirit, not just their mind and body. (And based on the popularity of a recent #ElderCareChat on burnout and self-care, it is a topic of great relevance!)
The book is divided into very short chapters, so that caregivers who may only have a few uninterrupted minutes to sit down with a book can get the insights they need in just a few pages. Each chapter begins with a section called “my voice,” continues to “wisdom of the community,” a section of quotations and stories from caregivers about the chapter’s main topic, and “let’s imagine” or “let’s get your spirit ready for a new day” exercises, where caregivers are encouraged to write their answers and thoughts directly into the book.
I actually had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Benjamin Pratt, who is a retired United Methodist Pastoral Counselor, at an AARP-sponsored forum on the challenges of caregiving. We had a wonderful conversation, and he shared that he has been the primary caregiver for his wife for a number of years. We talked about his book and on dealing successfully and unsuccessfully with burnout (he also likes to use the Greek word, accidie, of which the root meaning is spiritual dryness/suicide: check out Chapter 24 of his book to learn more). Though the forum was interesting and thought-provoking (about a dozen writers/caregiving experts, including Jane Gross from The New York Times’ New Old Age blog, served as panelists for the two-part discussion), I found my conversation with Pratt and his friend, Sharon Carp Levy, a sandwich generation caregiver who helped Pratt with some of the research for his book, to be the highlight of the day.
To order a copy of A Guide For Caregivers (a Kindle version is available too), click here.