Book Review: The Dutiful Daughter’s Guide to Caregiving, by Judith Henry

When I was publishing my first book, Come Back Strong, I had to pick a niche or genre. My editor told me it wasn’t a true memoir but she also warned me about calling it self-help. I settled on the broader category of non-fiction and wrote what I knew. 

I wrote about my journey through something traumatic in my life and everything I did to bounce back. It made sense in my brain and I was proud of my work and my writing. It didn’t matter if it didn’t fit or follow the traditional rules of writing. I simply wanted to help others who were going through a setback or similar situation. I wanted to inspire them to educate and empower themselves to take responsibility for their own health and well-being wherever they could. From the reviews and readers that reached out to me, I’m proud to say I accomplished that.

Years after Come Back Strong was printed, I began to look closer at genres and was drawn to the art and brilliance of memoir. You may think of a memoir as an account of one’s personal life and experience or a record of events written by a person having intimate knowledge of them and based on personal observation.

I prefer Marion Roach Smith’s definition: 

Memoir is about something you know after something you’ve been through.

It was in Smith’s blog post, Can a Memoir Be a Self-Help Book? Can a Self-Help Book Be a Memoir? that I discovered that hybrids do indeed exist. One such example of a Hybrid Self-Help Memoir is Judith Henry’s The Dutiful Daughter’s Guide to Caregiving.

I bought the book even though I’m not a caregiver in the typical sense of the word. I have provided care for my husband after surgery and he cared for me after my hysterectomy/oophorectomy. As for my parents, they are both healthy and independent and enjoying their retirement.

But I’m at that age where my friends and classmates are taking care of their parents. For many years, my sister-in-law was the caregiver to my mother-in-law, who suffered from dementia. My childhood friend is responsible for caring for her wheelchair-bound mother. Whether your loved one is physically or mentally challenged, caregiving is no joke. It is exhausting overwhelming. And in some cases, extremely fulfilling.

I found myself laughing and crying as I read Henry’s The Dutiful Daughter’s Guide to Caregiving. She did a beautiful job of weaving her deeply personal experience and what she learned from it with an instructional manual of sorts for readers who find themselves in a similar situation as a caregiver. Her words definitely made me think. And because of this, I’d like to share and recommend her book.

Henry includes personal studies, practical wisdom, and must-have legal documents. She includes a glossary, suggested readings, helpful websites, and even a book club study guide – what a great idea for a support group. She talks about stress, family dynamics, and knowing what questions to ask your loved one’s doctor. All in all, she provides a really good caregivers toolbox.

It’s never easy to talk about the aging of our loved ones. It’s even harder to live through. But it is in the conversations about death and the end of life wishes that we discover grace.

Why you’ll be interested in this book:

  1. You are a caregiver. You have an aging parent, relative, or friend and want to know how to navigate the journey with grace, love, and kindness.
  2. You want to put a plan in place for yourself that your children or caregiver can follow.
  3. You are facing surgery or a medical condition and want to put your affairs in order.
  4. You are a writer who would like to write a memoir or self-help book. If you’ve been through something and feel your experience could benefit others, you’ll benefit from reading this hybrid self-help/memoir. 

“Since our parents ushered us into the world, it seems only fitting that we become part of their leaving, but that doesn’t keep us from questioning if we’re up to the task of saying goodbye.” (~ Judith Henry)

Additional Reading:

From my blog:

Additional Resources – Holiday Shopping

The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life Buy Now: The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life 

Buy Now: The Dutiful Daughter’s Guide to Caregiving: A Practical Memoir