In a medical world that seems dead set on two extremes—prevention and treatment—it’s easy to miss the underlying theme that binds them together. Attending to our own health or that of a loved one or even a stranger is foremost about care. Health writers across genres are looking at the lives of those who nurture others’ health, redefining what it means to care, and showing readers practical ways to care for themselves and for others.
Nurses are the hands, feet, and face of care in the health-care industry. Carolyn Jones honors not only their actions but their hearts and minds in The American Nurse (Welcome Books, 978-1-59962-121-0). Jones is an acclaimed photographer, and each spread features a black-and-white portrait of a nurse and an interview about the subject’s life and work.
The book’s large format—nearly a foot square—is perfect for this content. Taken in different locations, the photographs are full of personality and compassion: that of the nurses for their patients and the photographer for her subjects.
The book features nursing students and seasoned professionals from eleven states who work everywhere from the neonatal ICU to hospice care. They relate the challenges they face each day, how they cope with the high stakes of their jobs, and the deep lessons they’ve learned along the way—with the everyday, uncommon selflessness of these people serving as the common thread. Their tender stories and faces will stick with readers.
While nurses administer care across the spectrum of age and illness, some diseases pull whole families into the care-giving process. Alzheimer’s is one. Although nurses, presumably, have all the training they need to complete the task before them, family members caring for their loved ones are often unprepared for the difficulties they’ll face.
The well-known voice of Dr. Ruth Westheimer lends its frank practicality to the challenges of people caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s. In Dr. Ruth’s Guide for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver (Quill Driver Books, 978-1-61035-135-5), authored with Pierre A. Lehu, Westheimer focuses unflinchingly on the well-being of the caregiver; her advice is all about balance. She steadfastly reminds readers that to effectively take care of their loved ones, they must take care of themselves.
The book equips readers with information and advice on when and where to get assistance and how to help other family members (especially children) cope with the illness. The authors include a special chapter on caring for your spouse—a topic that could fill a whole book. This book is just the start for Alzheimer’s caregivers, but provides them with a steady foundation during a time that feels so uncertain.
Mothers are the ultimate caregivers, and like Alzheimer’s caregivers, they also face fear and anxiety and need balance. Society at large, in an effort to encourage, equip, and advise mothers, often bogs them down with guilt, and this guilt is perhaps strongest in the realm of breastfeeding.
According to Suzanne Barston, breastfeeding advocates imply, and sometimes even state, that formula feeding mothers don’t want the best for their children. But the simple truth is that breastfeeding just isn’t a good fit for some moms and their babies because of medical, psychological, and professional limitations. In Bottled Up (University of California Press, 978-0-520-27023-7), Barston, who couldn’t breastfeed her son because of his milk allergy, tackles this imbalanced view of breastfeeding head-on and provides comfort for mothers who care deeply for their babies but don’t breastfeed.
As a parenting and family journalist and a diligent researcher, Barston is uniquely qualified to write about this topic. Her book is a balance of experience and researched-based information about how postpartum depression, feminism, and media campaigns exert influence in such a personal realm.
Bed rest is another situation where health care considerations move beyond the physical realities of life into practical and psychological realms. Bed rest challenges patients to remain active mentally and relationally even when they’re inactive physically.
Making the Most of Bed Rest (Viva Editions, 978-1-936740-16-1) by Barbara Edelston Peterson empowers readers to turn what seems like a curse into an affirming experience. Forewords by Hallie Beacham, MD, MPH, and Christopher Segler, DPM, attest to the importance of the proper medical, mental, and emotional approaches to bed rest.
Peterson, who was prescribed bed rest for preterm labor and later was confined to a wheelchair after a fall, infuses the book with personal experience and well-researched, stay-sane strategies. And she doesn’t shy away from the tough topics of depression and decreased sexual activity. The appendix is intensely practical, providing everything from a schedule keeper and journal to phone numbers for ordering magazine subscriptions. The chapter titled “You’re Not Alone” contains the stories of others who’ve thrived through bed rest; it’s the heart of the book’s soothing power.
At every stage of life and illness, touch plays a vital role in calming the body and spirit and stimulating recovery. In Hands-On Healing Remedies (Storey Publishing, 978-1-61212-006-5), Stephanie L. Tourles teaches readers how to enhance the body’s natural healing processes with 150 recipes for homemade salves, oils, and more treatments made of natural ingredients and delivered through the skin, which Tourles touts as an ideal delivery system.
Organized alphabetically by ailment, from alopecia to intimate female concerns, the book covers the gamut of everyday health concerns. Many of the sections contain multiple recipes; each recipe has careful instructions for making and applying the remedies. The process may seem intimidating at first, but the book has everything readers need to know to create their own healing solutions. The first part of the book introduces the tools needed, and the appendices are particularly useful for beginners, listing and describing ingredients and suppliers.
Each of the authors of these books provides readers with heartfelt and practical information to infuse all aspects of prevention and treatment with the care that inspires genuine health.
Freelance writer Melissa Anne Wuske (melissaannewuske.com), a former Writer’s Digest Books editor, is the communications director for Stop Traffick Fashion.