This edition of our Bookshelf series is an exciting opportunity for us to highlight a newly released book for caregivers: “Your Caregiver Relationship Contract: How to navigate the minefield of new roles and expectations.” We had the pleasure of interviewing the kind, wise, and thoughtful author of this book, Debra Hallisey, to find out more about what inspired her to finally put her words and experiences on paper.
In her book, Debra talks at length about the “caregiver contract”— essentially, the spoken and unspoken boundaries within a caregiver/care receiver relationship. Her insights—shared from her own caregiving experiences—are nuggets of gold for anybody caring for a family member, friend, or neighbor.
Through the sometimes lonely journey that is caregiving, this book helps you feel understood and listened to, but mostly, like you have a friend walking beside you—helping you navigate the winding, unpredictable road ahead.
What inspired you to write this book?
For years, people had said to me, ‘You need to write a book about being a
caregiver,’ but I never felt like I had anything relevant to say. As time went on, I found there were five blog posts I’d written for my website, Advocate for Mom and Dad, that really resonated with people. The first one that struck a chord was “What is your caregiver relationship contract?” The other topics that resonated? How to ask for and say yes to help, how to set boundaries, what an emotional journey caregiving is, and who are the people that supported me as my mom’s caregiver.
In the spring, an opportunity came up to present at a Northeast Regional Caregiving Conference, an offshoot of the national conference hosted by Caregiving.com. Once I realized that my presentation topic should be the lessons I’ve learned from being a caregiver these last five years, a light bulb went off: ‘There’s my book.’
How did you get the idea for the “contract” terminology?
I used to think about relationships in terms of a dance. One person leads, the other follows, and you switch back and forth. But for me, this analogy doesn’t allow for negotiation. If one person stops following, the dance is over.
In caregiving, you need to keep going, through the hard times, through the emotions, through the exhaustion. I believe this requires getting to unspoken expectations. Otherwise, someone crosses a boundary they didn’t even know you had.
It requires having hard conversations, but it also requires having them while using the right language, finding the right time and place, and knowing when your loved one is motivated to hear you. It requires claiming, naming, and changing your emotions—even the ones you don’t want to admit you’re feeling. It requires asking for and saying yes to help, which means creating a support system of family, friends and professionals that can support you on this journey.
In caregiving, you need to keep going, through the hard times, through the emotions, through the exhaustion.– Debra Hallisey
What do you hope readers take away from reading your book?
My hope is that this book gives readers permission to take a step back—away from the emotions—and co-create a new way of being in a caregiving relationship that is respectful, loving, and honors each of them individually. I also hope readers take away the realization that caregiving impacts all of your relationships. The skills you take away from the book are relevant to more than your meeting your caree’s needs. And, I wanted this book to be helpful and practical, so I was determined to end each chapter by providing easy-to-use tools for the reader to co-create their own caregiver relationship contract with the people in their lives.
I hope readers take away the realization that caregiving impacts all of your relationships.– Debra Hallisey
Finally, what was the most interesting and challenging part of writing and publishing your book?
The most challenging part was the very tight timeline I gave myself. I wanted it published in time for the Northeast Regional conference, which meant I pretty much stopped doing anything but writing for several months. I hired someone to mentor me through the process, keep me on target, serve as my editor and help me to publish the book on Amazon. Without that mentoring, I might still be writing it! I also underestimated the effort it takes to market your book when you self-publish.
The most interesting thing about writing this book was how much I learned about myself and about my relationship with my mother. Writing a book like this makes you very vulnerable. I’m honest about my journey as a caregiver and it’s scary to give people that view into your life.
Debra Hallisey, author of the down-to-earth guide for caregivers, “Your Caregiver Relationship Contract: How to navigate the minefield of new roles and expectations.”