Review of “Self-Care for Caregivers: A Twelve Step Approach”

Self Care for Caregivers Twelve Step ApproachAlthough difficult to measure the precise reach of the program, the Twelve Steps have helped people all over the world recover from addiction, trauma and loss. The main frailties of our society are often those with the most effective Twelve Step programs: gambling, alcohol and drug-addiction, violence, and eating disorders. The Steps can reshape almost any circumstance in life that becomes overwhelming or unmanageable. Stress and anxiety, life feeling out of control, the difficulty of the day-to-day—these are examples of a caregiver’s unmanageable life that Pat Samples was aware of when she applied the Twelve Steps to the caregivers’ circumstance. With the help of Diane and Marvin Larsen, Samples has transformed the approach to self-care by exploring the emotional state of caregivers through the lens of the Steps.

Ways to practice self-care have become trendy topics among caregiver resource sites. However, the tips provided are largely repetitive or irrelevant. Sometimes there really isn’t enough time in the day to do yoga. Or enough resources available to provide respite care. Often the guilt of self-care can create an imbalance of one’s perceived need for self-care. “Take a vacation” can be repeated until the cows come home, but how often will this advice be taken as seriously as the fear of being unavailable for a loved one in need. This is where the push for self-care falls flat. No matter how many creative ways there are to get a moment alone, the problem of WHY the caregiver is still operating without long walks or meditation sessions remains unaddressed.

Enter the simple and effective solution expressed in Pat Sample’s “Self-Care for Caregivers: A Twelve Step Approach.” The book dives past the typical self-care solutions to tackle the emotional upheaval caused by the extreme pressures of this role. By admitting powerlessness over the care-recipient, one can find comfort in relying on a power greater than his or herself. This requires us to rely on a spiritual force that can be understood however the we choose. Regardless of religious beliefs, Samples proposes that the caregiver can rely on the idea that he or she is not in the journey alone. This idea is key. Loneliness is a frequent emotional state we experience. Guilt, anxiety and grief leave the caregiver feeling painfully alone. But Samples urges readers to remember they are not alone. In the U.S. alone, there are 65.7 million caregivers. Many of them likely feel unprepared and frightened, as well.

The book is broken down into seven parts: what’s expected of a caregiver; where the problems start; freedom from control; acknowledging what hurts; giving away the pain; breaking free; and finding strength day by day. Samples provides exercises to help facilitate the reader’s engagement with the Steps and features stories to help the reader identify with and learn from others’ caregiving experience. “Self-Care for Caregivers” is a must-read for all caregivers to help keep their emotional state fit, but ultimately it is an asset for those feeling like they are drowning in caregiving responsibilities.

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