The Caregiving Wife’s Handbook: The Need-to-Hear Truth

I’ve just been skimming through “The Caregiving Wife’s Handbook” by Diana B. Denholm and I already like the approach she takes. It’s an inventory process, something I’m a big fan of– I make inventories of clothes, personality traits, books, anything– you name it. It’s a way to get our thoughts in order. As with any stressful circumstance, caregiving necessitates the thought inventory process. Denholm structures her book on the principles of communication: things we say, want to say, shouldn’t say (unless to a friend), and need to say. She helps the reader narrow her thoughts to fit into these four categories through a series of journaling exercises and prompts. But helping facilitate communication between husband and wife is only part of the book. The rest is filled with hard-to-hear-but-I-need-to-hear truths. Like being fed up with people telling caregivers to practice “self-care.” She found that some wives don’t want to practice self-care even though they are told it’s important. Why? Feelings of guilt, cries for help… There are psychological and social reasons for wives sacrificing their health for their husband’s care.

She also mentions “anticipatory grief” as one of the many confusing emotions caregiver wives face. We wrote about living grief, as Denholm puts it, earlier this week. Anticipatory grief not only is common among caregivers but it is also a regular experience for the not-yet-caregiving population, whether we regard it as such or not. It stems from the fear of losing something or someone we care deeply about. Knowing that you will lose someone or something that you love causes the degeneration of our sense of security. It’s important to talk about those feelings because “holding them in isn’t going to help.”

I like that the book gives very practical advice for the caregiver. For the new caregiver, maybe even the seasoned one, advice on things like “emotional fine line issues” is key to direct a caregiving relationship to a healthy place.

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