Guidance and Support for Caregivers – Book Giveaway!

We are giving away a copy of Leaning Into Sharp Points: Practical Guidance and Nurturing Support for Caregivers by Stan Goldberg. Check out this excerpt from the book, and then leave a comment for a chance to win your own copy of this book!

When Loved Ones Must Redefine Themselves
By Stan Goldberg, PhD

How we view ourselves — our identity — is based on what we do, the roles we play, the activities we enjoy, our affiliations, our abilities, our relationships, and the values that structure our lives, to mention only some of the multitude of things that constitute identity. All these in combination are used by loved ones to create a picture of who they are, and by other people as they anticipate reacting to them. When an integral part of a loved one’s identity changes, so does her self-perception and place in the world.

Accept Feelings of Loss

Losing something that gives meaning to life is often a by-product of chronic and terminal illnesses. It can be the daily jog for someone who has run for forty years, the loss of hearing for someone who has played the cello her entire life, or the gradual memory loss of a writer who has spent his days in front on a computer crafting short stories. Most people can look at these losses and understand how devastating they are. But what about something like the inability to knit experienced by someone with crippling rheumatoid arthritis? Or the inability to read the morning newspaper over a cup of coffee as one’s eyesight diminishes?

Unfortunately, the magnitude of a loss is often thought of in terms of someone else’s sense of what’s important. An active person might think that no longer being able to walk is tragic, and the inability to knit inconsequential. Yet for someone with rheumatoid arthritis whose entire life centered on knitting, the loss is far more devastating then being unable to walk. Many chronic and most terminal illnesses result in life-changing losses. People’s ability to knit, run, walk, write, or converse may disappear, but memories of these things remain constantly present, sometimes acting as slaps in the face when ailing individuals see others doing such things.

Caregivers try to be supportive by presenting “but look” arguments. “Yes, I know you can’t jog anymore, but look at what you’re still able to do.” How convincing can that argument be when the activity or ability now lost was a central feature of a person’s life? Ask anyone who has undergone a significant loss what she thinks about “but look” propositions. The head knows that it makes sense to relish what one is still capable of doing, but the heart mourns the loss.

We get enjoyment and fulfillment not from the thing, activity, or person itself but from the emotions it stirs in us. For example, I did solo wilderness fly-fishing throughout my adult life. It was the most enjoyable activity I ever did. When my cancer treatments and a chronic sleep disorder prevented me from continuing that pursuit, I mourned its loss as if it were a loved one who died. My head knew that I was fortunate that one group of medications was containing the cancer and another was allowing me to sleep. And not going into the wilderness alone was a small price to pay for sleep and life. But my heart still longed to go. I eventually realized that it wasn’t the act of fishing in the middle of a pristine river that I missed; it was the serenity I felt being there. When I realized that, I sought other activities that could engender the same or a similar feeling. I found it in playing and crafting wooden flutes. Was it the same? Not really. But it allowed me to partially fill that pothole.

When your loved one laments the loss of something important, avoid using a “but look” response. The regret he’s expressing is coming from the heart, and it needs a heart response. Begin exploring what made that activity so important in his life. Once the emotions have been identified, jointly think about what other activities may generate similar ones. Often the answer is found in very different activities, like when I found that playing and crafting flutes would substitute for wilderness fly-fishing.

As your loved one’s illness progresses, you may find that what works today will not work tomorrow. Look for something that may be do-able throughout his disease progression. If both of you realize that what he has chosen will be possible for only a short period of time, still do it, but think about what can substitute for it at a later point. For example, an ALS patient I served loved ambling through Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. He lived only a few blocks away and, before he was diagnosed, spent hours there every day. As the disease progressed and he no longer could walk, I would take him to the Rose Garden each week in his wheelchair. When he was confined to a bed, people who visited would come with a flower they picked from the park. Any loss that a loved one tells you is substantial, by definition is. Accept it as so and jointly explore substitutes.


Stan Goldberg’s Lessons for the Living won the London Book Festival’s Grand Prize in 2009 and was featured in Best Buddhist Writing of 2010. A private therapist, clinical researcher, and former San Francisco State University professor, he lives in San Francisco. He was named Hospice Volunteer Association’s Volunteer of the Year 2009 and his website is

Excerpted from the book Leaning Into Sharp Points: Practical Guidance and Nurturing Support for Caregivers © 2012 by Stan Goldberg. Printed with permission from New World Library.

WIN THE BOOK! Enter a comment below and you will automatically be entered to win a copy of Leaning Into Sharp Points: Practical Guidance and Nurturing Support for Caregivers by Stan Goldberg. Winner will be announced on August 28 (winner will be notified via Care2 profile). Good luck!


Maureen K.

Winner: Please email Molly at to claim your new book. Thanks to everyone who entered!


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Karen H.

Caring really takes active listening and empathy. We often rush in to 'fix' a problem for another, in the hopes of being helpful. Sometimes one just needs to be heard but Dr Goldberg takes it a step further in giving space (and time) to the feelings and helping to find alternatives to soften the loss.

Bonnie Chaban
Bonnie Chaban5 years ago

I plan on becomming acaregiver and your book would add knowlege and insight to my future vocation

Susan L.
Susan L.5 years ago

I live with and care for my 98 year old Mother. I have taken care of her since she was 94
and have seen many changes or losses. She cannot play bridge any longer and also
cannot read books or newspapers. These are huge losses for her but she has a very good attitude and we continue on with books on tape, walking and going to the local YMCA for physical therapy.
I just finished a class (offered by our local "Elder Network") called "Power Tools for Caregivers" using The Caregiver Helpbook. This was an excellent class. I now also attend the Caregiver Support Group, also with Elder Network.
Your book would also be very helpful for we will see...
thank you for writing this book to help all of us caregivers..

Jo Anne S.
JoAnne S5 years ago

What an eye opener, this one excerpt from the book. We will all suffer loss of some sort as we age and this practical suggestion can go a long way to easing that loss. Hopefully the caregivers of my 52 year-old sister will all get the opportunity to read this educational book and then pass it along to share with others dedicated to this honorable profession.

Jo Anne S.
JoAnne S5 years ago

What an eye opener, this one excerpt from the book. We will all suffer loss of some sort as we age and this practical suggestion can go a long way to easing that loss. Hopefully the caregivers of my 52 year-old sister will all get the opportunity to read this educational book and then pass it along to share with other dedicated to their honorable profession.

Judy N.
Judy Nelson5 years ago

My parents are moving to an assisted living facility closer to where I live; I would love to have this book for guidance in this new chapter of our lives.

Pumpkin Sparshott

I'm the sole caretaker for my dad who is just starting to dement... we are both leaning against sharp things right now and I think the book would help me deal with my own thorns as well as his...

William H. Russell
William Russell5 years ago

I have been the only caregiver for my wife of 40 years for 35 of those years as she has gotten progressively worse. She has Rheumatoid Arthritis, and it is in every joint in her body except of course the four she had replaced. The only hope is if they could regrow joint tissue through stem cells, we will see. Last year July 26, she was hospitalized for over 3 weeks with respiratory distress and double pneumonia, even though she had a pneumonia shot in February. Now she has a permanent Tracheotomy, with an inner and outer cannula, and if her tube gets plugged someone has to be here to change it or she would expire. I wish I had the money to get her a computer to talk for her as she no longer talks, she needs 24/7 care, and she also needs 24/7 oxygen. Would love a copy of the book although I know I probably will not win it, but would love the advice in it. I feel like Pamela F, in that I have lost so much of our relationship due to this disease. I continue to persevere however. Anyone can contact me with advice at

Midge Greentree
eM G5 years ago

My brother is caring for our 93-year-old dad who has advanced dementia. I cannot begin to express my gratitude toward him. He has given the gift of his love and care, and now his time. I help out and visit, but I would love to give him this book too.

Pamela F5 years ago

As a caregiver you lose a large part of your life; freedom, spontaneity, the ability to be a couple, to rely on each other for support, comfort and decision making, but most of all you lose the adult, your best friend who no longer exists . The freedom to just walk out the front door and go for a walk.
We can no longer go to the beach. That part of my life is now gone. I now have to make all of the decisions, fight all of the battles and see to all of his needs. My needs now at the bottom of the list of important items that must be taken care of, there just isn't enough time or energy left at the end of the day.
I am sure that the book has lots of tips and helpful tidbits however, I have learned that at the end of the day--nothing has changed. Tomorrow I wiIl wake up and put a smile on my face and no one will know especially my husband, that in the dark of the night I will morn what is lost.