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6 Helpful Books for Caregivers

Suggested reading for anyone facing the challenges of caring for a loved one

Book with pages that make a heart shape, books on care giving

Caregiving is often difficult, but there are books that can help guide you along the way. — Photo by Elusive Photography/Getty Images

Caring for a parent or spouse can be thankless, heartbreaking, uplifting, exhausting and fulfilling — often all at once.

The following authors, caregivers themselves, share their experiences in books filled with courage, raw emotion and no-holds-barred honesty (including some none-too-pretty scenes of caregiver meltdown). The common thread: Caring for someone you love may be the hardest work you'll ever tackle, but the rewards — love given, love returned — can be unexpectedly rich.

See also: Important resources for caregivers.

The Caregiving Wife's Handbook: Caring for Your Seriously Ill Husband, Caring for Yourself 
by Diana B. Denholm

$14.95 paperback

Through profiles of six women tending to ailing husbands (and her own 11 years as a caregiver), psychotherapist Denholm reveals some brutally heartbreaking truths behind the facades of cheerful, selfless devotion. "Why doesn't anybody ask how I'm doing?" one wife laments. Anger, sadness and weariness are here, but so are survival tips (ask for help, get away occasionally and yes, have a little fun). How these very real women cope — or don't — will strike a chord with any struggling caregiver.

AARP is here to help you. Visit our Caregiving Message Boards to voice your questions and concerns with other AARP members. 

Takeaway tip: Caregiving ain't for sissies — or saints. Vent, cry, laugh — but above all, take care of yourself.

A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents — and Ourselves 
by Jane Gross

$15.95 paperback, $11.99 e-book

Gross, a former New York Times reporter (and founder of the blog "The New Old Age"), alternates a personal story — her mother's three-year decline and death at age 88 — with a national issue: the state of elder care in this country. A Bittersweet Season is frank and full of good advice (never let a parent go to the ER unattended, for example). "How do we become our parents' parents without robbing them of their dignity?" the author wonders. As she figures that out for herself on a day-by-day basis, Gross also reassures her readers that "being clueless is the central and unavoidable part of this experience."

Takeaway tip: Most bad decisions are made during a crisis; refuse to be rushed by doctors or anyone else.

 Next: How do I deal with my spouse's Alzheimer's disease? »

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Trish Hughes Kreis is caring for her brother, Robert, who suffers from seizures. Find out how she balances caregiving with her other responsibilities. Watch.

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