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'Angels' offers caregivers advice, resources, support

"Sustenance and Hope for Caregivers of Elderly Parents; The Bread of Angels," by Gloria G. Barsamian, Praeger Publishing, 194 pages, $34.95

Statistics reveal that the likelihood of caring for an elderly parent or loved one is no longer the exception but the standard.

During her 28 years of working with elderly patients and their families, Gloria Barsamian saw families in the toughest situations scramble to meet the needs of loved ones.

"I kept seeing people that were really upset and not prepared for this phase in their lives as caretakers and care receivers," Barsamian said.

Barsamian believes that care giving does not need to be stressful or painful as it was for the people she encountered, but with the right preparation, it can be rewarding both spiritually and emotionally.

"If the conversation just gets started you know where the will is, the medicine," Barsamian said.

Barsamian hopes that her book, "Sustenance and Hope for Caregivers of Elderly Parents: The Bread of Angels," will serve as a catalyst to those vital conversations.

"I found no one had ever discussed anything, and it was a big surprise. Usually, the parents did not address the situation before it arises," Barsamian said.

Care giving is becoming more and more common, with people living longer and having better medical care available.

The book lists the signs to look for in deciding whether a loved one is in need of care giving in a professional atmosphere.

Elderly family members who can no longer walk, feed or bathe themselves or become incontinent usually require assistance from a care facility rather than a loved one.

Care at home begins when a loved one is ill or has difficulty maintaining his or her quality of life.

Barsamian acknowledges that personal care giving is not an option for some families and that nursing homes or assisted living facilities are the best fit for some families.

A large focus of the book is on the feelings of both the caregiver and the care receiver.

"No one asks for help. Statistics have proven if a spouse is care giving and feels helpless, the caregiver dies quicker than the person they are taking care of," Barsamian said.

"I found people felt hopeless and helpless. Everyone seemed depressed, especially the caretakers."

Barsamian wrote that at times, care receivers feel like a burden on their relatives and, in some cases, would rather die than inconvenience their loved ones.

Aside from widely accepted idea that care giving is depressing and hopeless, "Bread of Angels" provides hopeful and inspirational anecdotes for the caregivers.

"Illness is a terrifying experience for both patient and family. It is important that both parties be able to bolster each other's courage and hope," she writes.

Barsamian writes the book as both a professional in the medical world and also from personal experience.

When her parents were in their early 80s, Barsamian went to her parents' home every night to help care for them.

"I cannot say I regret one single day from it. That is where I got my spirituality," she said.

During the time she spent care giving for her parents, Barsamian and her siblings united to share the workload.

The author admits that the care giving was stressful and, at times, straining, but she also found the time she spent care giving immensely rewarding.

"By making the choice to reverse the current trends, we affirm that human value is not tied solely to self-efficacy and that human needs are not a burden," she writes.