Book these choices: How to pick out a great gift

Share this content:
Elizabeth Newman
Elizabeth Newman

In the vein of Eleanor Feldman Barbera's column this week on long-term care resources and possible gifts this holiday season, I wanted to expand on book recommendations for everyone in your life. The catch is, of course, that all discuss or celebrate the life of seniors.

For a co-worker:

There are two approaches. If the relationship is formal, consider a “best practices” book such as Naomi Feil's “The Validation Breakthrough: Simple Techniques for Communicating with People with Alzheimer's and Other Dementias; Cynthia A. Oster and Jane S. Braaten's “High Reliability Organizations: A Healthcare Handbook for Patient Safety and Quality”; or Virginia Bell and David Troxel's “The Best Friends Approach to Dementia Care, Second Edition.” (If you leave a comment at the end of this blog I'll enter you for a giveaway for one of these books.)

Granted, these professional development resources might run the risk of a “Gee, thanks ...” gift akin to socks or underwear. But here's my pitch for them: These books are pricey. For organizations with limited discretionary funds, or an inability to expense these types of books, the gift reflects that you, as a co-worker, care about both about your colleague's knowledge and the organization itself. (That's not to say, it wouldn't hurt to add some baked goods or other small treat to go with it!)

If you want to go with a professionally relevant book that's more fun to read on vacation, consider David Casarett's “Shocked: Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead.” You also could consider Atul Gawande's “Being Mortal,” especially if the co-worker has seen him speak at LeadingAge.

If they've read all of Gawande's work and liked it, I recommend Pauline Chen's “Final Exam:  A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality” or Vincent DeVita's “The Death of Cancer.

For a friend:

Do you want a friend to have insight into what it's like to be 80 and living independently? Then consider Stewart O'Nan's “Emily, Alone.” This is a good choice for someone who liked Fredrik Backman's “A Man Called Ove” or Rachel Joyce's “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

For something a shade deeper, such as if you have a friend struggling with grief, I recommend Anne Tyler's “The Beginner's Goodbye.”  For a book set in assisted living, try Jill McCorkle's “Life After Life.”

If you have a friend who is going through a breakup who needs to laugh, I recommend Jennifer Wright's “It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History.” What's that have to do with long-term care, you ask? My answer: You may think that people, in your facility and life, are becoming crazier. Read about the people in these breakups and rest assured that people have always been nuts, especially after romantic hardship. If you haven't started saying your much-alive wife is a ghost, or castrated a slave boy to make him a stand-in for the wife you recently killed, congratulations: You're a step ahead of Timothy Dexter and Nero. And don't even get me started about Henry VIII.

For children (and their grandparents):

Consider “Lucky Pennies and Hot Chocolate,” “Last Stop on Market Street,” “Grammy Lamby and the Secret Handshake,” “Strega Nona,”The Wednesday Surprise,” and “Babushka's Doll.”

These are children's books, but they all celebrate the role grandparents play in the lives of many. They're great to give grandparents to keep at their house for when their little ones come to visit.

If you have a young child, I'm sure you have noticed that one of the more curious aspects of children's books is the prevalence of animal characters. Don't get me wrong — I don't even have kids and can talk about “Click Clack Moo” or “Bats at the Library” at length — but one thing to consider is having children's books that feature a diverse range of human characters, both in terms of race, sex, and age. Books like “These Hands,” which is a story between an African-American grandfather and his grandson talking about how he couldn't touch bread at the Wonder Bread factory, aren't “preachy” but rather a good way to promote empathy.

For a teenager:

“Unbecoming” by Jenny Downham follows teenager Katie, whose grandmother has dementia and who is struggling herself with a big secret. It's a humorous family drama for the teenager in your life who likes John Green, Julie Murphy or Rainbow Rowell. For slightly younger teens, consider Gordon Korman's “Pop,” which features a character with early-onset Alzheimer's. Teenagers also may enjoy “Paradise Lodge,” which follows a 15-year-old struggling to stay in school as she works in a nursing home in England in the 1970s. (It was a different time.)

If you still want to get someone in your life a book and don't know what to buy, hit me up. Book recommendations are among my favorite things to do — I'm basically a human Amazon algorithm at your service.

Follow Elizabeth Newman, a true bibliophile, @TigerELN.

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.