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If only I'd had this caregiving book

by Maya Hennessey

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Review by John Hindman for "If Only..."   (2009-08-26)


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by averymckenzie

Maya Hennessey has important news to any family caregiver of a seriously debilitated loved one in her book. Hennessey alerts you to the research that family caregiving weakens the immune system, unless you have an effective network of support. During the two-and-a-half years her husband and love of her life was dying of brain cancer, she began writing the lessons she was learning to guide other caregivers through the day-to-day quotidian horribleness of providing care for a loved one without sacrifice your own humanity. You can benefit from Maya’s Model found in If Only I’d Had This Caregiving Book (AuthorHouse).

Hennessey—a longtime (and acclaimed) addictions counselor, educator, consultant, trainer, and psychotherapist—has brought to bear all of her skills, experience, and hard-won insights on this most difficult of situations. If Only is a 102-page workbook certain to change the life of any caregiver—of a partner, child, sibling, or parent—who applies Maya’s Model to their challenges. It is a wonderful hybrid that combines theory, personal stories and empowering exercises into practical and therapeutic solutions to the seemingly insoluble problems that anyone of us might face when caring for a loved one with a serious disease or injury.

After a helpful introduction, If Only begins with the author’s moving story of how she came to write it—as a desperate response to the agonizing loss of her husband. She writes, “Each caregiver has a personal story to tell. Here’s mine [. . .] Walk with me through my story of near-destruction, the mistakes I made, and the lessons I learned that evolved into the model I present you, Caregiver, unsung hero that you are.” This warm and direct engagement with the reader permeates the theory, practical advice, and exercises that follow.

Then, in easy-to-apply steps, Hennessey lays out the model she wishes she had had when her trials began, made up of: the Caregiver (each one’s unique personality and preferences); the To-Do List (unique to the reader/user, their family, and the loved one); the Social Support Network (composed of the reader/user’s friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, and community services people); and the all-important Mind-Mapping method which blends the right and left brain into creative problem solving. Mind Mapping is a simple but creative and flexible way to sketch out and break down tasks; assemble categories of people (helpers) in one’s Social Support Network; and match up helpers (the Social Support Network) with the tasks.

As with the old proverb “The work will teach you how to do it,” Hennessey’s simple yet powerful exercises guide the reader to apply solutions specific to their own experience. This, in turn, helps the caregiver to deal with feelings and blocks that the exercises might bring up, and get more out of any therapy or relevant support groups they avail themselves of. If Only presents both basic, practical tools for concrete, step-by-step approaches and psychic/spiritual insights to undergird and support the caregiver.

The last chapter, “Until We Meet Again,” ties the book together with warm and practical closing from the author. A thorough resource list of recommended reading and organizational sources, as well as an appendix listing all of the exercises currently comprising “Maya’s Model,” fill out the book.

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