Title: Holding it Together: Surviving Caregiving and Loss
By Joan Zlotnick
Published by Tfutsa Publications, 232 pages
Joan Zlotnick’s Holding it Together: Surviving Caregiving and Loss, deals with a very serious issue touching us all, as most of us will become caregivers or will need caregivers.
Zlotnick, whose writing style is fluid, engaging and warmly personal, has written about the issue with deep insight and compassion. That the author, a retired professor of English at Brooklyn College who spent 12 devastating years caring for her husband, managed to write a book that is so self-reflective, uplifting, and at times even humorous is indeed an amazing accomplishment.
Part memoir and part self-help book, Holding it Together describes the daunting challenges she faced when, in his mid-60s, her husband, a professor of psychology and a gifted artist, developed a rare form of dementia that took many years to diagnose. She writes about day-to-day problems like self-care, coping mechanisms, guilt, managing finances and finding the right help, and tackles larger issues as well, including the unique problems of Orthodox Jewish caregivers.
She also writes about the stigma and fear associated with dementia, which accounts in large measure for the failure of religious communities, ordinarily admirable in their outreach to the sick and the needy, to step up to the plate when it comes to this particular illness. She does not stop there but goes on to offer suggestions for how the community as well as individuals can do a much better job in this area. She also includes a helpful section about navigating the challenges of widowhood.
Zlotnick describes her role in establishing an international support group for readers of the column she wrote for Mishpacha magazine for six months, and shares her strong belief that support groups are critical for caregivers. She includes stories related by many of these women, serving to broaden the book’s perspective.
Holding it Together is a book I wholeheartedly recommend. Helpful and healing for caregivers as well as those who have lost loved ones, the book should be read by everyone. All of us can learn something important from it.