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MOTHERING MOTHER: A Daughter's Experience in Caregiving

MOTHERING MOTHER: A Daughter's Experience in Caregiving by Martha Cooper Eischen, iUniverse, Inc. Bloomington, 2011

Reviewed by David W. Virtue
April 25, 2011

Society's focus on youth has led to a perceived concern about the euthanasia of the elderly.

In a culture that is doing everything to stifle the effects of aging and "losing it" through dementia and Alzheimer's, Martha Cooper Eischen's decade long story of care giving for her 98-year old mother is an example of selflessness and love, too often left to the uncertain attitudes of mechanically run institutions.

Eischen's book is a deeply personal account of insights that only a caregiver can give. Even when her mother suffered a tragic accident that left her, at the age of 88, with third degree burns over twenty-five percent of her body and hospitalized for five months, her daughter was always "there" for her.

In Mothering Mother, Eischen offers pages of practical advice ranging from "dealing with Dementia", "personality changes," and especially including making mistakes. Eischen learned the difference between coercing her mother and challenging her, a fine line she admits, but a necessary one for maintaining the best quality of life.

Eischen is not afraid to touch on the delicate subjects of personal care, privacy, bathing, clothes and dressing, toileting and feeding. It is all done with sensitivity and love.

Her book will, I believe, lead other caregivers, "both novice and experienced" down a road of compassion with a more complete understanding of what it means to care for an elderly loved one.

Eischen is not afraid to deal with her own deeply emotional story as she details her mother's end-of-life journey and how she, in turn, learned to provide personal care, partner with medical professionals, and deal with altered family dynamics. As she describes her life as a caregiver, she clearly identifies emotions, changes in roles, keys to keeping her mother active, and day-to-day care issues.

What makes the book that much more interesting is that Eischen spent 45 years in Information Technologies which included Programming, Systems Design and Analysis, Education, Management, and Sales, all very much left brain functions. Now, in this slim, very readable volume, she details her new life as a caregiver absorbed totally in right brain activity. She accepts her new role and all its ambiguities and complications with a profound sense of grace. The book is neither maudlin nor depressing. It is filled with pictures of a smiling mother and daughter. Humor is everywhere.

Eischen makes the point that the primary advocate in caring for the elderly is YOU. The book mentions specific agencies that can be helpful. She is not unmindful of the support that doctors and agencies as well as private institutions and skilled nursing facilities can offer.

Above all, have a sense of humor and be honest with your "patient" without being hurtful. Never leave a loved one in the dark, but don't alarm her either. Above all, sensitivity is key.

In this book, she puts her rich experience as a professional, organized problem solver, and caregiver together to work as an advocate for the elderly and their families. Through speaking engagements, television, and writing, she brings her message of love, encouragement and practical advice to her everyday audience.

Perhaps a clue to this is what the book does not touch on, which is Eischen's Christian faith that sustained her throughout the decade of her tender loving care of her mother.

Even though her mother has departed this life, Eischen continues her outreach daily to the elderly and their families, dipping, as she writes, into this deep well of life, preserving the dignities and sensitivities of our aging loved ones.


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