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Blog Feature

By: Marissa Salvesen on July 16th, 2015

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A Caregiver's Summer Reading List: Five Aging-Themed Picks

Aging & Caregiving

A Caregiver's Summer Reading List: Five Aging-Themed PicksThere’s nothing like getting lost in a good book during the summertime.

However, because the demands of day to day life do not necessarily slow down with the change of the seasons, many caregivers feel like they don’t have the time or energy to make reading part of their routines.

Unfortunately, this is a loss: reading offers a multitude of benefits -- including everything from stress management to memory retention. When you do finally have a moment to spare, how do you select the right book?

Choosing books with aging as a theme offers all of the therapeutic benefits of reading, along with something extra: the chance to recognize and identify with common experiences.

Let’s count down five of our favorites….

1. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This historical novel -- which claimed a spot on the New York Times "Best Seller" list for 12  weeks in 2006 -- is structured as a series of memories belonging to 93-year-old nursing home resident Jacob Jankowski. In telling the story of his experiences as a circus veterinarian during the Depression, the book is simultaneously suspenseful and sentimental. Of Gruen’s skilled hand in penning the book, the New York Times wrote, “With a showman's expert timing, she saves a terrific revelation for the final pages, transforming a glimpse of Americana into an enchanting escapist fairy tale.”

2. Time to Let Go by Christoph Fischer

This contemporary family drama set in England follows the story of stewardess Hanna Korhonen as she takes leave from work and returns home to rural England to spend time with her aging parents. This book delivers a heartfelt, honest look of how family dynamics are tested by Alzheimer’s disease.

Caregivers for aging parents suffering from dementia will identify with Hanna’s experiences in trying to help her father while caring for her ailing mother. One Goodreads.com reviewer writes, “This book is a testament to the amazing ability that families, even ones with dysfunction, have to blossom into something that continues on even in the face of the loss of those who shaped them.”

3. Still Alice by Lisa Genova

An early-onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis transforms the life of 50-year-old Harvard professor Alice.  While the subject matter is difficult, the book is riveting in a realistic depiction certain to resonate with family members and caregivers of people living with Alzheimer’s disease. A Goodreads.com reviewer writes, “Genova does a good job of showing the devastation in Alzheimer's but also the beauty in redefined relationships.”

4. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

CNN describes this popular memoir as “an inspirational recount of a man's life -- a man whose passion for the human spirit has continued to live long after his last breath.” Author Albom’s account of his ongoing conversations with his dying former mentor, Brandeis University sociology professor Morrie Schwartz, is widely praised as a testament to everything from love and happiness to communication and acceptance. The book has impacted countless people -- not just as a tale of a man's death, but as a lesson in how to live.

5. A Three Dog Life  by Abigail Thomas

This memoir details Abigail Thomas’s life after her husband is hit by a car and sustains a traumatic brain injury while walking their dog one day.  Caregivers for people suffering from brain damage and other forms of cognitive decline will find familiar territory here, such as when Thomas reveals, “Once in a while Rich says something that takes my breath away: 'I feel like a tent that wants to be a kite, tugging at my stakes,' he said one day, out of a clear blue sky. He was lying in a hospital bed, but his eyes were joyous.” Readers will also enjoy catching up with Thomas in her recent follow-up book, What Comes Next and How to Like It: A Memoir. This rumination on everything from friendship and family to aging and betrayal is ultimately about learning how to celebrate the unpredictable richness of life. 

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About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

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