Caregivers often lack downtime to reflect and decompress, but we can’t stress how important it is to do so, hence this list of the best caregiving books of the year. Taking care of a loved one is an important role but a full-time one. But it’s important to find ways to de-stress and unwind. As cliche as it sounds, it’s impossible to take care of someone else if you can’t take care of yourself. You’ll wind up burned out and dealing with your own mental health issues.
One small way to practice self-care is by reading. Studies show reading reduces stress, increases empathy, and strengthens the brain.
What you read really depends on your personal preferences. There are many books out there specifically aimed at helping caregivers cope with their stress, stay organized, and feel less alone. Other times, novels, from thrillers to romance, can help people escape reality for a short period. In 2021, the literal shelves in book stores and virtual ones online were stocked with new reads that you may love. These are the best books of 2021 for caregivers.
Best Caregiving Books
Caregiving often requires an individualized approach, not a cookbook one. Still, books can provide useful advice and strategies to try. And if nothing else, they can help caregivers know that they aren’t in the trenches alone—others are there or have been there as well. Though their experiences may not be exactly the same, relatable anecdotes can soothe the soul. If you’re looking for help or feeling alone, these 2021 releases are worth checking out and easily made their way to our list of the best caregiving books of the year.
Already Toast: Caregiving and Burnout in America
Author: Kate Washington
Being a caregiver involves unpaid labor (both task-driven and emotional), and it’s, quite simply, all-consuming and exhausting. Already Toast, released in March 2021, shares Kate Washington’s journey from a successful working mom to a caregiver to her husband, Brad, and their two children. Brad’s cancer diagnosis changes the trajectory of Kate’s life, turning her into a full-time home aide. She felt alone and was so burned out an online quiz on caregiver self-care declared her “already toast” (hence the title). Kate’s story brings attention to the oft-erased role of caregivers. This read is also a timely one as the Baby Boomer generation ages to a point they go from caregiving to needing care.
The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease and Other Dementias
Authors: Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins
This book has been around for 40 years and is a best-seller on Amazon, but it was re-released in paperback with updated information this August. The authors, Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins, have cared for individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias for decades and provide insights that are equal parts compassionate and authoritative. The updated edition includes advice on avoiding burnout, including tips and resources for how and when to get more help. It also has new content on resources like home aides and apps, plus information on emerging techniques and therapies. While this is on our list of the best caregiving books of 2021, it’s really one of the best of all time.
Advice From a Parkinson’s Widow: 20 Lessons I Never Wanted to Learn
Author: Barbara Shelkin Davis
Barbara Shelkin Davis wrote Advice From a Parkinson’s Wife: 20 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way, published in 2019, after caring for her husband with Parkinson’s Disease for more than two decades. Since the book was published, Davis went from Parkinson’s wife to widow, and her book is a personal account of a moment she was both prepared and unprepared for—the loss of her husband. She covers topics individuals transitioning from caregiver to widow know intimately well, such as eating alone, money, and the range of emotions people feel from anger to freedom to sadness and guilt. The advice in the book may also help caregivers grappling with the loss of a loved one to another long-term disease or trying to emotionally and logistically prepare for it.
The Forgiveness Workbook: Cultivate Compassion, Release Resentment, and Find Peace
Author: Ilene S. Cohen, Ph.D.
Caregiving can be fraught with guilt and self-deprecation. You may not have the same time for other people in your life or activities you once had. Your eating and exercise habits may change, and you may feel less like yourself and wonder why you can’t get back to feeling like you once did. Individuals looking to engage with their book rather than just read it (no shame either way) may benefit from The Forgiveness Workbook. The 190-page book is full of activities, quizzes, and more designed to help individuals move on, build resilience, foster healthier relationships, empower themselves, and practice self-forgiveness.
When Waves Rise: Navigating Difficult Moments Associated with Dementia
Author: Sarah Viola, OTR/L
The author, Sarah Viola, OTR/L, has more than a decade of experience caring for individuals with dementia and shares her knowledge in When Waves Rise: Navigating Difficult Moments Associated With Dementia. The book can help caregivers prepare for the journey ahead by offering practical and compassionate insights on what dementia often looks like as it progresses and why certain challenges will arise. The kindhearted tone is evident as Viola shares insights from both perspectives—the caregiver and patient—to promote empathy and understanding.
A Year of Self-Care: Daily Practices and Inspiration for Caring for Yourself (A Year of Daily Reflections)
Author: Dr. Zoe Shaw
It sounds passe, but it’s true and worth repeating: Self-care is not selfish. That’s why this book lands on our list of the best caregiving books of the year. Caregivers deserve to practice self-care, but it can be difficult to know where to start. Dr. Zoe Shaw gives readers ways to practice self-care in short intervals every day of the year in A Year of Self-Care: Daily PRactices and Inspiration for Caring for Yourself (A Year of Daily Reflection). Each reflection is about 15 minutes long and includes practical but significant ways to cultivate gratitude and nourish yourself, such as by creating a meaningful music playlist.
Little Matches: A Memoir of Grief and Light
Author: Maryanne O’Hara
Watching a loved one struggle can present an existential crisis, and it may cause caregivers to wonder: Why are we here? In Little Matches: A Memoir of Grief and Light, Maryanne O’Hara chronicles her own journey to find answers after her daughter, Caitlin, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) at the age of two. The book details her time caring for Caitlin and how, in some ways, Caitlin cared for her by providing poignant wisdom. Though it’s about a parent and child, caregivers of older adults may also find comfort and wisdom in O’Hara’s story.
Sometimes, you just need a break and don’t want to think about your caregiving responsibilities. That’s completely understandable. New novels can take you away from your day-to-day life and give you some moments of respite.
Beautiful World, Where Are You?
Author: Sally Rooney
Sally Rooney’s latest, Beautiful World, Where Are You?, became an instant New York Times best-seller upon its release in Sept. 2021. It chronicles the lives of four young people, Alice (a novelist), Felix (a warehouse worker), Eileen (Alice’s newly-single best friend), and Simon (a love interest of Alice’s since childhood). Rooney expertly weaves romance, social class, and friendship into the 368-page read. It’s a great book to help you relax, which is why we have it listed as one of our best caregiving books of 2021.
The Four Winds
Author: Kristin Hannah
Kristin Hannah, whose resume includes smash hits like The Nightengale and The Great Unknown, returned with The Four Winds in February. Set in Texas during the Great Depression, this page-turner centers around Elsa, who is forced to choose between the land she loves or heading west to California in search of something better for her family. It’s a captivating tale of class, hope, adversity, and resilience.
Author: Stephen King
Stephen King’s latest, Billy Summers, rose to the top of the New York Times Best-seller List upon its release this year. While it has absolutely nothing to do with caregiving, we’ve added it to our list of the best caregiving books because it’s just so fun to read and can help you escape your daily routine. Billy is an almost-retired hitman who only takes on a job if the person is truly evil. As he approaches his retirement, he agrees to take on one last assignment. But he winds up getting more entrenched in the storyline his employers dreamt up for him. He pretends to be a novelist but starts writing his own book and partners with Alice, who he saves from gang rape and also wants revenge. The twists and turns will have you scheduling self-care time to read.
Author: Lauren Groff
Lauren Groff, who previously wrote the hit novel Fates and Furies, released this instant best-seller and finalist for the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction this year. Matrix transports readers back to 12th-century France. It follows the life of Marie de France, a 17-year-old who was nixed from royal court by Eleanor of Aquitaine for not being “courtly material.” Marie heads to an impoverished area of England. At first, she struggles to adjust but transforms into a bold leader.
Apples Never Fall
Author: Liane Moriarty
When a member of the Delaney family, which boasts an upstanding reputation in an Australian community, goes missing, they must deal with the fallout. One family member, in particular, seems like he has a lot to hide, despite proclaiming his innocence. The book jump-cuts from past and present, giving the reader a chance to see the family beyond their pristine facade.
What Were Your Favorite Caregiving Books of 2021?
If you read any other books throughout the past year that helped you out in one way or another, list them out in the comments below! These could have been books directly pertaining to caregiving or they may just be stories that helped you relax and escape the stress that you feel day to day.
Share your favorites with our community! What would you consider the best caregiving books of the year?