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Guest Post: A Social Worker’s Review of “Caregiving with Strength”: The Book

Review of: Caregiving with Strength Author: Eleanor Silverberg, BA Psych, MSW, RSW

This Guest Post is a Review written by: Victoria Brewster, MSW

Caregiving is difficult and often the focus is on the individual, patient, client or family member that suffers from a progressive, chronic or degenerative disease or illness. What makes this book both different and needed is the focus on the caregiver, both family and professional. Great examples, solutions, and definitions are offered which are easily understood.

It is wonderful to have a book that a professional could use to encourage discussion and problem solving with family caregivers while at the same time, the book allows the family caregivers to understand what professional caregivers may be experiencing.

A quote that stood out for me as a frontline social worker, “Caregiving as family members or professionals carries with it demands that can take an emotional, cognitive, physical, and spiritual toll. Self-assessment, acknowledging potential signs of emerging compassion fatigue and burnout can assist, as preventative before symptoms get worse.”

The approach depicted in the book focuses on 3-A’s: Acknowledge, Assess and Assist. Caregivers acknowledge their struggle and possible losses, the impact of such is assessed and assisting strategies and solutions offered. Often family members do not see themselves as caregivers, but as family assisting family. The title ‘caregivers’ provides structure and legitimizes the function provided. It’s a reframing which may allow a family caregiver to accept support for themselves and the 3-A Approach can assist with this.

Caregiving with Strength focuses on the caregiver. Typically the individual afflicted with the chronic health condition is receiving support, information on the illness or disease and it is the family member (s) struggling to offer/provide support while going through their own adjustment to the situation. Eleanor Silverberg raises awareness of the situational losses and subsequent reactions to the losses that caregivers face. Feelings of denial, resistance, anger and guilt may surface-similar to the process of grief or bereavement that tends to accompany the death of a family member or close friend. She goes further and explains that often when someone has died there are rituals, structure and support offered to the family and professionals, but this is not the case when the family member or patient is facing a chronic illness. In the case of chronic health conditions, the family member is very much alive, but cannot function the same as before the diagnosis and the progression of the illness or disease may be slow or quick. The caregiver is slowly witnessing someone change before their eyes and often is not prepared.

This book encourages caregivers, both family and professional to recognize, seek and accept assistance while at the same time ‘normalizing’ the process.

Victoria Brewster, MSW is a frontline geriatric social worker in Montreal, Quebec. She is also a staff writer for Social Justice Solutions and maintains a personal blog.

To take a “sneak peek” and/or obtain a copy of the book,

Caregiving with Strength: Raising Self Care to New Heights by Acknowledging the Losses

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