Thursday, July 2, 2015

Showering with Nana: Book Review

Published 30 April 2015.
Caregiving can push people to the edge of sanity.

Elder law attorney and family caregiver Cathy Sikorski takes a pro-active stance by pointing out the absurd things that happen in the life of a caregiver.

In her book Showering with Nana: Confessions of a Serial (killer) Caregiver, Sikorski documents what happened when her grandmother "Nana" stays for the six months that the author's mother was wintering in Florida.

[I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.]

Because of various age-related challenges (memory changes, role loss and physical changes), Nana required constant attention--much as a toddler would.

Caregivers, despite some uncanny similarities, absolutely must treat older adults differently than they would a child.  Trying to do anything different not only is unethical, it's ineffective.

Or as Nana says, "You don't have to get testy, honey girl." 

The salient issue during the six months time frame of the memoir was the way Sikorski's 92-year-old Nana and two-year-old daughter, Rachel, combined forces to thwart the best laid plans for caregiving.


Nana and Rachel didn't want naps, but needed them. They did want treats all of the time, and shouldn't have (particularly the dog food they furtively consumed).  They both wanted Mr. Sikorski's attention (the author's husband) when Cathy herself needed John as a support.

The bottom line? Nana and Rachel both wanted to do things their own way and were slow to negotiate.

Fun times.

Gut Sikorski's caregiving experience isn't entirely filled with frustration.  Her book reveals not only the humor but the way caregivers can also find love, affection, insight and transcendence if they learn how to think beyond the too-easy-to-see drudgery of their duties.

Oops. I said, "doody."

The second most salient issue is the prevalence of poop in this book.  It may not be a pretty sight, but when caring for someone who is working her way out of diapers and someone who is working her way into disposable underwear, poop is a reality.  Now, that's reason enough to turn to humor to survive.

But the book is not all awash in bodily functions.  I was inspired by how Sikorski found ways to transcend the day-to-day challenges. For example, after snapping at her grandmother during the day, Sikorski lies awake in the dark, reviewing the day's events and trying to sort it all out:

"I treated the adult in a disrespectful way. I know this because I made her cry. Somehow that hurts more than when your baby cries. That's when the bell tolls, and I know it would one day toll for thee" (p. 85). 

One of my favorite aspects of the book is when Sikorski focuses on some of the various ways that her Nana has taught and supported her.  Notably, Nana took in Sikorski's mother and siblings after the author's father died suddenly in a military helicopter accident in 1961.   But she did more than house and feed her grandchild.

Nana showed Sikorski how to care for a house, how to care for others, and how to carry yourself.  

"We can't all be movie stars or race care drivers or the President of the United States. So to make the non-extraordinary bearable, we must engage in the ordinary in an extraordinary way.  My Nana was exemplary at this" (p. 156). 

And I am grateful for Sikorski for documenting how she, her Nana, and her daughter (with her husband's support) made their time together extraordinary.

Related:

Chast's Graphic Novel: Book Review
Books on Aging
Women's Voices on Spirituality and Aging



12 comments:

  1. Good review. Makes me want to read it, because of the humor and the subject matter.

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    1. I wanted to give this gal a medal after reading her book. But she is so gracious. She concludes by enumerating her grandmother's gifts to her and adds a call to connect more to the generation above us. It was fun and sweet and poignant.

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  2. What a great concept! My dad had Alz. so I so get this. I have to read it.

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    1. Enjoy the book. All my best to you for holding onto good memories of your dad and carrying forward a legacy of him.

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  3. I read this book and adored it. It is funny, wise, poignant and comforting. I hope Cathy continues to treat us with her wonderful writing.

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    1. Great core description: funny, wise, poignant and comforting. Agreed.

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  4. This is a difficult subject. It sounds like a wonderful book that treats issue with kindness and elegance.

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    1. It was a labor of love, clearly. And it works as a guide for others walking a similar path.

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  5. Sounds like a great book. And like Nana supported Cathy in earlier days, making the caring for Nana a reciprocal labor of love. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Hooray for extended family support--indeed.

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  6. Can't wait to read this! It sounds perfect for caregivers!

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    1. Indeed! It's hard for caregivers to attend support groups, but they can read a few pages of a book here and there and relate to Cathy's experience!

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