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Caregiving: A Guide for Those Who Give Care and Those Who Receive It
Book review

By Carol Heintzelman
Posted Thursday, March 20, 2003

Caregiving: A Guide for Those Who Give Care and Those Who Receive It, by Victoria E. Bumagin and Kathryn F. Hirn. (2001). Springer Publishing Company, New York, 272 pp., $36.95.

CAREGIVING is a book that social workers, other related professionals, and nonprofessionals should read. All individuals are caregivers and care recipients in the course of their life span. Others are caregivers as a result of the nature of their professional calling, such as social workers, doctors, and nurses. The authors look at the caregiving experience from the perspective of the several parties involved in the process, drawing upon their experiences as social workers with extensive experience in gerontology and working with the families of their aging clients. The book is readable, current in terms of practice and policy concerns, and the authors make excellent use of relevant case vignettes throughout.

The thesis of the book is stated on p.ix of the Preface as follows: "to understand the needs of both patients and caregivers, one must explore and apply an understanding of the interpersonal relationships between caregivers and care recipients, as well, as a broader sense of the history, experience and attitudes that compose their social and emotional environment."

CAREGIVING is divided into three parts and ten chapters, which carry out the above thesis. Part I: Caregiving in the Social Context, focuses on determinants and conditions of caregiving, defining who are the care recipients, caregivers, and when it is time to provide care. Part II: The Caregiving Experience comments on balancing the scale, as well as emotional pitfalls. The Social Impact of Caregiving is the focus of Part III and discusses the caregiver paradigm, in-home services as respite, caregiving within the health and social care systems, and when the caregiving ends.

Several areas in the book need to be highlighted. One area relates to feelings of guilt that "adult children feel caring for their aging parents." (p.9) The authors give an excellent description of the evolution of relationships and attitudes between the two groups. In the course of this discussion, Bumagin and Hirn describe the impact of "skipped generation families" (p.15), the "lineage bridge" (p. 16), and the impact on adult caregiving children in "returning the gift of life" (p.18). Caregivers of people who are mentally ill, mentally retarded/developmentally disabled, and Alzheimer's patients will appreciate the succinct and practical guidelines on p. 66 to help them in their caregiving.

Bumagin and Hirn differentiate on p. 81 between "taking care" and "giving care," and the impact this difference has for both the caregiver and care recipient. They also identify, on p. 104, five categories of adjustment related to care recipients who need a nursing home placement. On pp.124-125, the authors identify seven factors that contribute to service refusal by care recipients, and provide suggestions for resolving the concerns. A checklist of fifteen guidelines (p. 162) regarding the quality of service by home health agencies is provided for social workers, nurses, and other professionals to evaluate the adequacy of a proposed agency. The authors, on pp.181-182, note the impact of the managed health care system on caregiving, especially for the elderly.

As our population ages, there will be an increased need for caregiving by all individuals, both professional and nonprofessional, in our society to provide such services. CAREGIVING will benefit all parties who read it by preparing them for the future.

Reviewed by Carol A. Heintzelman, DSW, ACSW, LSW, Professor of Social Work, Millersville University of Pennsylvania, Millersville, PA.