Holding the Net

As the caregiver for my elderly mother, I read with interest Merriman's memoir about living through her mother's physical and mental decline. Unlike a guidebook loaded with information and tips, Holding the Net is just someone's personal story. That's okay. Memoirs do what guidebooks can't: paint a detailed picture that stirs your emotions and encourages you think about how you want to handle your own challenges. 

I read how Merriman, a PhD and hospice consultant, missed obvious signs of her mother's decline. She delayed doing what she knew professionally to be the right thing, such as taking her mother's car keys or forcing her Mom to move. Merriman's candid story highlights how emotions can override reason. She hopes the story motivates readers to overcome obstacles to doing the right thing. She highlights common challenges in family illness, such as...

  • family tensions related to unequal caregiving responsibilities, different coping styles, financial concerns
  • communication (among family members; with clinicians; with other caregivers)
  • using allied health and community resources optimally 
  • caring for the caregiver
  • balancing hope  and expectation

I'll pass along a terrific tip: photograph your parent's étagère before moving him or her to a retirement or nursing home. Recreating the familiar display in your parent's new home may help ease the transition. 

Merriman's mother died a dignified and peaceful death. Reflecting on her journey, Merriman found no easy answers. "Even our successes were often painful." Caregiving was about doing the best she could. Sounds like Healthy Survivorship.

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