Saturday, March 14, 2015

Added to my bookshelf ... "Learning to Float: Memoir of a Caregiver Husband"

There is so much that so many of us could gain from reading Allan Ament's book, "Learning to Float," taking his words to heart and putting them to work in our lives, our relationships and our community.

The book is sub-titled "Memoir of a Caregiver Husband," and documents the days, then the months, then the years that followed his wife's stroke ... a time that brought dramatic changes to their lives and their relationship with one another. It is also a time that challenged Ament personally in so many ways. His book - which emerged from his regular emails to family and friends, updating them on Deloris' condition - is a frank look at those challenges and how he dealt with them ... sometimes successfully, and sometimes not.

For many of us reaching that point in life where we find ourselves caring for aging parents or spouses, there is much to be gained from "Learning to Float" ... not just in our approach to caring for others, but also in caring for OURSELVES as we care for others. An attorney and educator, Ament is not a medical or healthcare professional, and finds himself like so many others who are suddenly thrust into the role of caregiver without warning, without training, without even a clue of what might lie ahead.

He must 'learn to float.'

So what qualifications does Ament bring to his role as caregiver and his book about that experience? Well, again, he is an attorney and an educator and is comfortable with asking questions, doing research and documenting his experience in order to better understand what he is doing, and what he could be doing. This includes application of long-established medical practices, and advocacy for new applications of medical practices from other fields. Some of his information comes from medical journals and the internet, but also from the counsel of friends, a support group and the first-hand experiences of other caregivers, advice from a Zen master on traveling through life. But at the base of all this is family ... and more. He writes briefly about his parents and how their example, their work with the less-fortunate, reinforced his religious teachers' lessons on the Judaic tradition of Tikkun ha-Olam, an ethical injunction, a command that humanity must restore and redeem a broken world.

Ament notes that these habits, traditions and teachings - along with the "in sickness and in health" part of his marriage vows, led him to assume primary care responsibilities for his wife when she became ill, saying, "it never occurred to me to do otherwise."

All of this is delivered in a straightforward and clear manner, in language that is more an informed discussion rather than a lecture or medical thesis. I am a relative newcomer to Early Reviewing for LibraryThing, and "Learning to Float" is my first review to earn a full five stars. I strongly recommend this book to everyone - whatever your age or place, whatever the challenge you or someone you know is facing or might someday face, in your family or in your community, whatever has you 'learning to float.'

NOTE: I received a copy of this work through LibraryThing
in exchange for a review.