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Elder Care

by Maggie Steincrohn Davis
Heartsong Books, 1999
Review by Ruth Cherry, Ph.D. on Nov 7th 2001

Caring in Remembered WaysCaring in Remembered Ways is very clearly a work of great meaning and personal commitment for the author. Davis created her own publishing company, Heartsong Books, "to celebrate an ongrowing understanding of the interconnectedness of life." In the introduction she states, "I confess I could have condensed this book into one sentence. See deeply the beauty and interconnectedness of all life; then think, speak and act from what you see." Her readers will be glad she didn't.

Davis is at her most heart felt when she describes the condition of the invalid. She exhibits great empathy as she writes about the sick or dying person lying in bed, needing help but hesitating to ask, and being afraid in his isolation. She displays exquisite sensitivity to the issues of privacy, powerlessness, conflict about voicing requests, shame, loneliness, fear, and especially vulnerability. The book's finest moments lie in her ability to teach compassion.

"Having compassion for all life, not just human life, a healing takes place in us - a warming - that benefits
us all, human beings included. What if we had faith that seeing this deeply - and embracing this widely -
were our ticket to becoming as whole as we have ever dreamed of being?" (p. 75)
Her words are usually directed to the physical caregiver--the nurse, assistant, or family member ministering to a bedridden individual. As such, her suggestions are practical, sensitive, and sometimes confrontational. The caregiver is urged to selflessly think of the patient's needs. The needs of the caregiver receive much less attention than the expectations for his/her performance. "If never in our entire lives we have been granted a caring word, still we have the capacity to ease others so they do not suffer as we have -- to be refuge, even if we cannot find refuge." (p. 131) Many of wish, I am sure, that we could be so giving.

Davis suggests that a "Caring Quotient" may be the "true measure of our children's education . . . equivalent to the depth and breadth of their ability to love." She thereby offers us a new paradigm for living, one which, these days, is most welcome.

I recommend Caring in Remembered Ways to anyone who is responsible for another's physical care and to those experiencing loss on any level. It is an especially valuable book for those practical, grounded folks who may never have considered the subtleties and intricacies of extreme vulnerability.

© 2001 Ruth Cherry

Ruth Cherry, Ph.D., author of Open Your Heart, A Mid-Life Fable