Meet Judith Henry, author of The Dutiful Daughter’s Guide to Caregiving: A Practical Memoir

By Judith Henry

What was your motivation to write about your experience as a caregiver?

I believe some of our most profound lessons come, not from books, but from being there for people in ways we never imagined. During the six years I was a caregiver for my mother and father, not a day went by that I didn’t discover something new about myself, my parents, my siblings, human nature in general, and how to deal with a broken medical system when it comes to our elders. Realizing that, it became very important to share what I learned to prepare other daughters and sons in similar situations.

Was it personal? Professional?

Writing The Dutiful Daughter’s Guide to Caregiving was as much a personal journey as the actual experience of caring for my parents. What I didn’t anticipate was how it would become such a catalyst for me, professionally. I now do talks and workshops on caregiving issues; facilitate a writer’s group specifically for caregivers that I want to begin offering online; and I’m also working on another book about the healing power of expressive writing.

Have you gotten feedback?

The feedback has been food for the soul. People have shared ways they’ve used the book to start important conversations with their parents about getting legal documents in order, especially end-of-life wishes; one reader is a social worker who sent copies to each of her adult children to make their lives, and hers, easier when she needed care; another social worker admitted she bought it to be polite, then found herself relying on the chapter guides a month later when her mother became ill.

Do you feel your book helps other caregivers?

The comments received continue to make me believe that I’m on the right path with this book. Even though our circumstances and stories may be different, there are still common threads that connect us to each other in the caregiving community.

We often feel isolated. We judge ourselves against a standard of perfection that is unattainable, since we’re often dealing with impossible situations that would make anyone snap with frustration and exhaustion. So, it’s important that readers feel like they’re sitting down with a supportive, albeit mouthy best friend who understands the roller coaster of emotions that accompany this job, and reminds them that they’re simply human.

And since we have to figure out a way to make friends with both the light and the dark side of this experience, humor is often my delivery system, even when introducing tough subjects.

Ultimately, the true gift from writing a book to help others, is realizing it has helped me, most of all. I was finally able to grieve the loss of my mother and father, and at the same time, hold them close through the stories I shared. It helped me forgive myself for not being the perfect daughter or caregiver. It also gave me a much deeper appreciation for my parents – their strength, their stubbornness, and their courage.

About the Author:

When Judith set out to write a book about caring for her elderly parents, there were only a few things she knew for sure. It had to be small enough to read anywhere – an airport, an ER Waiting Room at 2 AM or on a lunch break at the office. The story would be open and honest because she’s not a rainbow or pink unicorn kind of gal, and above all, it needed to be useful.

The end result is The Dutiful Daughter’s Guide to Caregiving, a combination of how-to, humor and hardship. As one reader describes it, “Helpful to the core; worthy of your time; and funny, to boot.”

In addition to article writing, Judith offers consultations, talks, and workshops on caring for older adults, preparing ahead for caregiving, dealing with grief and loss, the benefits of expressive writing, and how to create a legacy letter for family and friends. She is also the creator of a well-loved writer’s group for caregivers in the Tampa area.

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