can't we talk about somethingmore pleasantIn honor of National Family Caregivers Month, here are three new books for caregivers that would make excellent holiday gifts. The first is a beautiful hardcover memoir in cartoon form that I’m giving away in a drawing.

1. “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” by Roz Chast

can't we talk about somethingmore pleasant 2Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” is a memoir written in cartoons—like a graphic novel, but true. New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast was an only child who, like many adult children, found herself caring for aging parents who badly needed help but did not want it. Her father was living with dementia, and her mother was the type of distant, critical personality who made caring for her a constant battle. Neither parent wanted to talk about hiring home care aides or moving out of their Brooklyn apartment (where Chast grew up) into assisted living, denying that they were growing more frail—and even that they might die one day. They lived into their nineties, with Chast their distraught sidekick.

“Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” is not an “uplifting” memoir in the traditional sense, but readers are likely to find it heartening and helpful because Chast is brutally honest in her depiction of herself as a reluctant, freaked-out caregiver. Her acerbic wit may help other caregivers let go of the guilt they may feel about their own struggles caring for an aging parent or other family member. Just her drawings of herself in bugged-eye distress may help caregivers feel less alone–and make them laugh.

Drawing to win a copy of “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?”

can't we talk about somethingmore pleasantI enjoyed this book so much, I’d like to donate my copy (a hardcover in absolutely perfect condition) to a caregiver. If you are caring for an aging parent or other family member, just leave a comment below saying you’d like to be included in the drawing. If you win, I’ll reply to your comment, ask you to email me your address, and ship the book to you!  (Please enter only if you live in the continental U.S., so it doesn’t cost me a fortune to ship it to you. Thanks!)

Deadline to leave a comment and enter the drawing:  November 24th.

Order “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasanthere.

2. “When Caring Takes Courage: A Compassionate, Interactive Guide for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregivers,” by Mara Botonis

perf8.000x10.000.inddIf you or someone you know is a care partner for a person living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, “When Caring Takes Courage” will help you cope more creatively and patiently with the myriad challenges you face every day. Mara Botonis draws upon her nearly 30 years of experience as an administrator working with people with dementia and their care partners in various elder care facilities.

She notes with irony that what she has learned inside facilities has convinced her that what she cares about the most is helping caregivers at home—those on the front lines of daily caregiving who need support, encouragement and specific information. To that end she has created a comprehensive and easy-to-use manual that covers nearly every situation you are likely to face as a dementia care partner caring for a loved one at home—from hands-on tips such as how to ease a person’s fear of bathing, to simple but creative ideas for ways to enjoy one’s time “in the moment” with a person living with dementia.

As a self-published book, “When Caring Takes Courage” has its flaws—for example, it could have used more editing for clarity and conciseness, and an index—but it is truly a comprehensive manual for dementia caregivers, written with compassion. I agree with the author that the book might best be used like a “cookbook”—that is, as a resource that you read not all at once but a little at a time as you need it, looking up a specific “recipe” to answer the particular challenge you’re facing that day. And the worksheets—such as the form to evaluate dementia care facilities—seem quite helpful.

I would give away my copy of “When Caring Takes Courage” (as I am with the book above), but I have the bad habit of writing in my paperbacks.

Order “When Caring Takes Courage” here

3. “On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s,” by Greg O’Brien

OnPlutoGreg O’Brien has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, as did his mother. Living “on Pluto” is his metaphor for living with dementia—the other-worldly state of losing so much that defines one’s life. Diagnosed at age 59, O’Brien uses his substantial “cognitive reserve” as a journalist, editor and previous author to write a moving account of how dementia has affected him, his mother and his family.

O’Brien is at his best when he describes scenes of his interactions with other people—for example, how he and his grown children struggle to come to terms with his changing personality. But as an indie-published book (O’Brien owns the small press that published his book), “On Pluto” could have used more editing: Two chapters about his idyllic childhood seem extraneous to his current state of affairs; more judicious use of commas would have helped smooth the reading experience; and a bit too much of the book describes his environs (Cape Cod) rather than the state of his mind as promised by the subtitle (“Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s”).

Overall, however, “On Pluto” is honest and compelling, an important addition to memoirs written by middle-aged persons living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias (“Alzheimer’s from the Inside Out,” by Dr. Richard Taylor, for example, and “Dancing with Dementia,” by Christine Bryden).  O’Brien’s story helps us see that Alzheimer’s disease is not just a disease of elders—it can affect people in their 40s, 50s and 60s. And, like the novel “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova (who, as a friend of O’Brien’s, wrote his introduction), “On Pluto” helps us understand that a person with dementia is more than their memories—more than their intellectual abilities, career or role in the family. “Memory,” O’Brien says, “isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” Memory” doesn’t define us. Definition is found in the spirit, in the soul, but one must dig for it.”

Whether you are living with dementia, know someone who is, or are a care partner for a person with dementia, “On Pluto” will help you feel more compassion for people living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, and more hope that persons with dementia remain “in there” as the disease progresses.

Again, I can’t give away my copy of “On Pluto,” as I am with “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” above, because it’s a paperback and I wrote lots of notes in the margin. But you may learn more about “On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s,” or order it, here.

Please leave a comment below if you’d like to be entered in a drawing to win the hardcover of “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” (Deadline:  Nov. 24, 2014.)


  1. conny lopez

    I would like to be included in the drawing please.

  2. Sandy Marocco

    Nice reviews, please include me in your drawing. I will have to check out the other books, I love looking at different perspectives for information. We became caregivers in January when we moved my FIL across country to live with us. We are learning things as we go, and are very fortunate that my husband and myself can tag team if one of us starts to become overwhelmed. Sadly it seems much harder on my husband than he imagined…. Thanks for finding an outlet to provide support to people who truly need it.

    • Martha Stettinius

      Hi Sandy. When my mother moved in with me and my husband and young children, it was also much harder than we had imagined. Thank goodness for my Office for the Aging’s caregiver support group. That, plus writing, helped me manage. But we quickly figured out that, for our family, assisted living was a better idea (and mom seemed happier there). I hope you find the support you need and deserve as a caregiver, and thank you for writing.

    • Martha Stettinius

      Hi Sandy. You are the WINNER of the book “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” Congratulations! Please email me with your address so I can put it in the mail to you: martha[at] Happy Thanksgiving! — Martha

  3. Lois Nime

    Please include me in the drawing. Thank you.

  4. Vicki Hyde

    I would like to be entered in the drawing for the book please. I am responsible for the care of both of my 92 and 91 year old parents who live across the street from me. I moved here in 2008 to be here for them. 2 types of dementia are included and I have some help with my father 7 hours a day. I will look into the other books also as I am very committed to keeping them at home, if at all possible. Thank you for your generosity.

  5. Sharlynn Boyd

    Please include me in the drawing!

  6. Cindy L

    Hello, I would love to receive a copy of “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?”

  7. consbruck

    always a good read-inc in drawing-thanks

  8. Josy Herrera

    Please enter me. 🙂

  9. Tamara Burke

    Please enter me to win! I can identify whole heartily!

  10. Lisa Davis

    My dad has advanced Parkinson’s. He has had DBS surgery with success but has lost his speech and most movement. Diagnosed at age 50 he is now 69. My mother who cares for him had a major stroke at 62 she is now 64. She has lost her speech due to the stroke. I have to/try to laugh most times in trying to communicate with them. I am in my 40’s with a child under the age of 10 trying to balance it all. Any humor welcomed or even to feel as if someone else understands would be comforting. Thank you.

  11. Teri. Evans

    I am lucky to be my Mom’s caregiver! I would love to win this book, so please enter me in your drawing. Thank you so much for this kind opportunity!!

  12. Martha Stettinius

    And the WINNER of my hardcover copy of “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” is Sandy Morocco !!!! Congratulations, Sandy. Please email me at martha[at] with your address so I can mail the book to you. Looking forward to hearing from you –and Happy Thanksgiving!! — Martha

  13. racquel jensen

    Please include me no one understand s I’ve had 5 clients pass this year my job put me in clients home 24/7 7 days a week then I will go to another and back to previous.bout 4 weeks then I will take a week off start another run

  14. Joe Tirio

    Great article!

    I might add “Creating Moments of Joy” by Jolene Brackey. We use it as part of our Alzheimer’s training and have used it in our personal lives and found it to be absolutely chock full of great, practical tips and trick for Alzheimer’s caregiving.

    Thanks again for this blog. Great work!

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