Like tens of thousands of other Canadians, Rick Lauber was forced into a caregiver role for his aging and ailing parents. Unlike most Canadians, Lauber's writing ability has allowed him to share what he's learned with others in the same situation.
Caregiver's Guide for Canadians is the first book for Lauber, 56, an Edmonton-based writer. It was published in 2010, with an updated version released in 2013. He has also written The Successful Caregiver's Guide geared for the American market, released in 2015.
“My motivation to write this book was due to the fact that my own caregiving story is not unique,” says Lauber.
His mother contracted leukemia, and his father was an Alzheimer's patient. In his introduction, he says the experience of taking care of two ailing parents gave him “a newfound respect for all those working in care — specifically, for untrained family members (like me) who, often, have been thrust unknowingly into a caregiver role.”
“I'm not completely convinced that our country's healthcare system is fully equipped to handle this growth resulting in more family members becoming caregivers and providing help and support on a variety of levels,” Lauber says in an interview. “Caregiving can be a demanding job and caregivers need support, information, and practical direction. I felt that I could provide all of this in a book and readers could learn from someone who has ‘been there and done that'.
“Admittedly, writing this book also proved to be an effective coping mechanism for me following my parent's deaths.”
The book, a comprehensive 145 pages, covers the gamut of caregiving questions, from defining what a caregiver is, the challenges of long-distance caregiving, finding suitable accommodations and the inevitable paperwork and bookkeeping that accompanies caregiving.
“Having been a co-caregiver for many years, I gained a great deal of experience as to what to expect, how to manage, and where to find help and the bulk of the book's content is based on my own personal knowledge.
“I did interview other subject matter experts; researched caregiving-related issues and details; and shared many websites where Canadian caregivers can find help, support, and further information.”
He says the book could have been even more comprehensive, but he chose to keep it “easily readable, digestible, and less overwhelming for busy caregivers.”
While there is no end to the challenges that face a caregiver — learning about the medical condition, time requirements, collaboration with other family members — to Lauber the biggest challenge was “losing my father twice – once when he forgot who I was and once again when he passed away”.
Lauber cautions caregivers to take care of themselves as well.
“Caregivers frequently focus entirely on their own aging loved ones and overlook their own health and well-being in the process. To that end, caregivers require respite (or time away) to rest and recharge.”
And despite all the stresses, he reminds caregivers that there are some positives to caring for aging parents.
“Caregivers can also dwell on the negatives associated with the job of looking after someone – stress, anger, confusion, depression, and so on. There are, however, many joys involved with caregiving which should be acknowledged – personally, I learned more about my parents, forged stronger relationships with my sisters, became better organized, learned about my own capabilities, and laughed.”
Caregiver's Guide for Canadians available at Chapter's/Indigo bookstores, Amazon.ca; and via publisher Self-Counsel Press.