A Daugher’s Long Goodbye: A Book Review by Mom and Me

When my mom picked up A Daughter’s Long Goodbye: Caring for Mother at the church library, she brought it home and quickly read it cover to cover. Then she suggested that I read it — well actually she instructed me to do so.

Caring for Mother, written in 2007, is not easy reading. Virginia Stem Owens describes seven long years of different types of caregiving — and her mother’s suffering — sharing observations and descriptions of decline, hallucinations, distant medical personnel, and an aging father with his own suffering and medical problems.

Often she writes with a touch of irony, but never with self-pity. Owen’s mother, suffers from Parkinson’s which leads to dementia. Eventually care at home is no longer possible, and her mother spends years in a nursing home. Every bit of it is still relevant today, more than five years after the book’s publication.

Here’s what my mother wrote to me after I finished Owens’ book.

This book traces the experience of an aging adult daughter who describes seven years of caregiving, watching mother slip into deeper and deeper dementia. The daughter’s deeper understanding develops in the process of caregiving.

Hydrangeas near my parents' home in the Shenandoah Valley.

I found Caring for Mother painful, but illuminating, but I probably will not read a similar book again. I do not feel that just any older elder (that’s 70+ years of age) would benefit from it, especially if she or he is involved in the concerns of age decline.

For the adult child, however, this book brings key insights as to what the caregiver needs to know if he/she is to really going to help the parent. Furthermore, author Virginia Owens writes profoundly, sharing insights about her own mother’s awareness and focusing on universal, but highly personal issues.

Owens provides evolving self-understanding regarding her own needs as a caregiver, and this is why I think it is an important read for any younger caregiver who needs clarification about when to focus on other’s needs and when to be aware of her own. Obviously Owens will be of little use to her mother if she herself falls into decline — a lesson that must be learned.

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