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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

Understanding caregiving from both sides

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October 11, 2016, by Pat Morden

Mary Solomon remembers when her friend Rachel Oliver was undergoing treatment for colon cancer. Oliver was concerned that her children were spending too much time caring for her and wanted them to go back to their normal lives. “She was trying to be Miss Independent,” Solomon remembers. “I said to her, ‘The children are doing what they need to do -- they need to be your caregivers now.’”

Struck by this perspective, Oliver suggested that they write a book that would help caregivers and the people they care for understand each other’s perspectives. Caregiving, Practical Advice from the Trenches was published earlier this year.

Certainly both Oliver and Solomon have plenty of experience and knowledge to share. Solomon is a physiotherapist who worked as District Stroke Coordinator in Grey Bruce before retiring. Her husband is a paraplegic and her youngest daughter has autism.

Oliver was hit by a car in 1997, breaking both legs and both arms, and sustaining a brain injury. She has also been treated for cancer three times. A cartoonist and motivational speaker, she has been recognized by the Association of Applied and Therapeutic Humor.

The two women met when Oliver was doing rehabilitation after the accident, and have stayed in touch ever since. They developed the book through long conversations about the journeys they had both traveled.

The book is structured into four stages. Each spread is anchored by an Oliver cartoon. The copy is breezy, brief, and larded with practical tips. Humor plays an important role. “Humor is a huge thing for both us,” says Solomon. “There’s lots of research out there saying that humor is great in health care. We think it helps people have a more positive attitude. Seeing something funny in a situation gives you a bit of a lift, even if it just gets you through the next hour or two.”

Ultimately Solomon says the book is designed to help caregivers and the people they care for travel together, sustaining their relationship and understanding each other’s perspective better. “Confidence is a lot of it,” she says. “If this book helps somebody be more confident going through the journey, then it will have been worth doing it.”

Her best advice to caregivers? “Be open to the possibilities. It’s a hard journey, but it can be a good journey too. Be joyful in what you have -- all of us have joy somewhere.”

Caregiving, Practical Advice from the Trenches is available at amazon.ca