Book review: How to dig for the treasure in people without getting buried alive

Disability Horizons contributor Nichola Daunton, reviews Caroline McGraws latest book, a self-help style book about caring for someone, as well as caring for yourself.

Caroline McGraw’s new e-book Your creed of care: How to dig for the treasure in people without getting buried alive, has been written for carers who support those with intellectual disabilities and, when it comes to this type of work, McGraw has knowledge and experience on her side.

Having grown up with a younger brother with autism, McGraw has spent the last five years working at a L’Arche, an organisation that provides support for people with learning difficulties, in Washington DC. The first L’Arche community was set up in France, in the freewheeling sixties, as a faith-based centre in which people with intellectual disabilities lived side by side to those without. Since these humble beginnings, the concept has spread globally and there are now ten L’Arche communities in the UK alone.

McGraw then, knows what it is to be a carer. She knows the sacrifices that must be made, and she understands the gargantuan amounts of love, frustration and energy that are involved. She is more than qualified to write a book for carers and after reading it, it becomes clear that caring for people is something she is passionate about.

As a part-time carer myself, I feel that the book itself is not just a book for carers. Written in what can only be described as a very American self-help style (which may prove to be a bit too much for the more cynical British palette), the advice offered by McGraw, while being very pertinent to carers in particular, is also relevant to anyone out there having trouble coping with the stresses of the modern world and an overly packed schedule.

At just over sixty pages long, the book is easily digestible for those who find themselves with little free time to sit down and read. Divided into seven chapters, each one raises a problem and then gives the reader some advice on how to overcome it. For example, the first chapter is entitled Denial/Truth and seeks to tackle the common problem faced by carers, parents, and anyone with too much to do, of failing to take care of number one.

The following chapters go on to examine other healthy changes that carers can make to their lives in order to ease the pressure a little bit, including: the importance of asking for help from others: the need to set up healthy boundaries; how to overcome fear of the unknown and let go of those you care for. While some of these points do seem rather simple and self-explanatory at first, it’s remarkable how often we fail to follow them. After all, how many times, whether you are a carer or not, do you actually deal with your problems face-on as opposed to keeping your head down and hoping that eventually everything will just work itself out?

Sometimes the things that seem simplest on the page can be the hardest to put into practice, a fact McGraw is well aware of. To help her readers along she offers them ample opportunity for reflection by posing questions and even offering space to make notes within the text itself. Despite its length, the book is packed full of thoughts and ideas and it is likely that the more thought you put in, the more you will get out.

This book may not work for everyone though. Personally I would have benefited from a more no-nonsense approach with less emphasis on the words ‘love, peace and humility’. But that’s just me (a dry humoured atheist from the UK, in case you were wondering!). Despite a clash of temperaments, however, I did find many of McGraw’s points interesting and could relate them to both my everyday life and my work as a carer.

McGraw clearly knows her stuff and it is the moments in which she uses her own knowledge and experience that the book truly comes to life. Indeed, I think it would have benefited from more in-depth explorations of her experiences, but I can understand why she decided to keep it short for her, no doubt, busy audience.

Whether you are a carer or not, McGraw’s e-book is worth a browse and does offer many pieces of advice, which although they may seem simple at first, are also vital if we are to live healthy, well-balanced, lives.

You can download McGraw’s e-book for free from her website.

By Nichola Daunton

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