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 Cover to Cover Book Reviews

Caregiver Tools: Bridging Memories
by Laura Levitan, LCSW; Mary Beth Sloan, RN; and Derek Ferebee     



When you first look at Caregiver Tools: Bridging Memories, you may think it’s a calendar because of its size, shape and format. When you open it, however, you will find no days or months listed inside. You may then think you have opened a workbook. After all, there are questions to answer on almost every page.


The title on the cover tells you, though, that you have a set of tools in hand. As you start to read the book, you learn that the tools are communication tools you can use to talk with a loved one, friend, or patient who suffers with dementia or some other memory or brain disorder.


This specialized book, this “set of tools,” grew from some the authors’ experiences while they tried to communicate either with patients or with their own family members who suffered from memory disorders. Developed by Laura Levitan, a licensed clinical social worker; Mary Beth Sloan, a registered nurse; and Derek Ferebee, a photographer, the book is a series of photographs of major life events and everyday experiences—from weddings to holidays, from food to fishing poles, from visits to the beach to military service. The photographs act as a means to stir memories and to start conversations.



Although the photographs alone can start a conversation, each photograph has a matching set of questions that you can ask of the loved one or patient to further enhance the conversation and to help bring forth more memories. Also, since music often serves as a powerful emotional stimulus to evoke and uncover long-lost memories, the authors were clever enough to match certain songs titles to some of the photographs. Therefore, you may find that singing these songs with the patient, or playing recordings of them, offers another means to ease into what is often a difficult communication process.


The authors provide three enhancements that will help you as a reader or user of the book. The first, near the beginning, is a set of directions to guide you: a) to make the most of the format of the book and b) to approach the loved one or patient in the most beneficial way possible in order to enhance your conversations. The second enhancement is the addition of an affirmation after each photograph’s set of questions. For example, the photograph of the pet cats is followed by the following affirmation: “Pets rely on us to take care of them.” These affirmations can be used either to expand or to close your conversations. The final enhancement is a simple blank page at the back that you can use to customize the book by adding some of your loved one’s personal photos.


For the second printing of Caregiver Tools, I suggest three format changes to improve the value and usability of this already valuable communication tool. First, I suggest that all the directions be listed on one page. The directions are easily read on the two pages as they are now, but if someone wanted to copy them—to share with other family members or staff members—they would be easier to copy if they were printed on just one page. 


Second, I suggest that each of the photographs be matched up with at least one song. That might take a little effort on the part of the authors, but it would only add to the overall value of the book and to each of the individual opportunities for communication. Finally, related to this same subject, I suggest that, in addition to including the overall list of song titles by page number, each song title should be listed on the appropriate page next to the musical note. That would keep the user from having to refer back to the original list each time the page is turned.           



Although Caregiver Tools is not a calendar, it can still help you and your loved one span time from one day or one month or one year to another. It can also help to bring forth all the special thoughts and emotions that helped make so many of those days so memorable.


Although Caregiver Tools is not specifically a workbook, it offers exercises and questions that can help you and your loved one work through the fog that often plagues your relationship as well as your conversations. It also helps to highlight the good memories at the same time it helps to foster new ways to communicate. 


Caregiver Tools is definitely a set of tools to enhance your communication efforts with the loved one who is having so much difficulty conveying his or her thoughts. With these tools you are able to help remove his or her feelings of isolation and frustration by connecting once again in very basic and universally human ways.


Caregiver Tools is more, however, than a set of tools. It is actually an amazing storybook, amazing in the sense that every time the book is opened it tells a brand new story. Each person who opens the book and responds to the photographs or answers the questions tells a different story than all the others who have “read” the book before. And each and every time the same person opens the book, it helps him or her to uncover a different memory and to tell a different story. Caregiver Tools is indeed an amazing storybook.


I recommend this book highly to all of you who care about or care for those whose memories are fading. Help them find a way to tell their stories while they can.


Review by Linda Wasserman
Publisher, Pelican Press
May 27, 2011

To learn more about Laura, Mary Beth, and Derek, visit their Web site at You will find information on how to purchase Caregiver Tools: Bridging Memories, as well as their other books, at the same site.





SecondBloomingCOVER.jpgSecond Blooming for Women: Growing a Life That Matters After Fifty
by Kathleen Vestal Logan and E. L. (Betsy) Smith, Ph.D.



     If you want to be inspired and motivated, you need to read Second Blooming for Women. If you want some sort of guideline to help you examine your life, you need to read Second Blooming. If you want tools to help you make changes in your behavior or in your goals, or if you want to learn and to be entertained, you need to read this book.

     As writing colleagues, Kathleen Logan and Betsy Smith have produced a valuable resource for every woman over fifty. However, you don't have to be female, or anywhere near fifty, to benefit from the information they offer or to gain insight that can change the way you live and the way you think about yourself and your life. Not only do they inspire from the first page, they offer the means, in each and every chapter, to make steady progression toward any life goal you may have -- a motivational push that women (or men) of any age can use.
     However, this book IS specifically written for and about women. Again, that fact is evident from the beginning, as the first two chapters serve as a synopsis of historical and social issues (e.g., obtaining the right to vote and being treated differently when older) that have concerned women in various ways down through the years. This synopsis certainly helps "prepare the soil" for what follows in the book because it offers readers, right away, the possibility of a new perspective on their lives.
     Here are the characteristics of the book I especially like:
     The collaborative effort of the authors. A book written in more than one voice can sometimes be a confusing compilation of thoughts. However, Kathleen and Betsy do a good job of maintaining their separate voices. They do this not only by taking turns writing the chapters, but also by referring, quite often, to each other’s similarities and differences. They also allow the book to become a collaboration with the women from their discussion group by sharing the women's comments on numerous issues. The consistent inclusion of these comments throughout, and the follow-up with each of the women in the last chapter, serve as vauable additions to the motivational aspects of the book.
     The garden analogy. This analogy, used in the book title, chapter titles, and as the master theme, plays well because a person’s life truly is like a garden that needs to be cultivated. The analogy also allows the authors opportunity to make use of one of the clever features of the book: drawings and descriptions of different flowers to represent each chapter. I hope that in a future edition of the book, they will actually convert the drawings into colored frontispieces for each chapter. This would turn an interesting and enjoyable concept into a lovely visual feast, as well as add impact to the garden theme.
     The abundance of resources. Not only do the authors provide multiple text references in the book’s endnotes and bibliography, items commonly provided by other writers, they also go out of their way to list, and to discuss in detail within the text, the many resources, forms, and tools that readers can use in their personal quests to become Master Gardeners of their lives. In addition, the authors provide many of these resources and assessment tools on their Web site, listed below.
     Multiple thought streams built into the text. Second Blooming offers its readers a whole garden full of experiences. Not only do readers get to know Kathleen and Betsy, they also become “friends” with the other women in the book. Not only do they learn some history and examine many of the world’s social issues, they also discover ways to examine their own family history and their thought and behavior patterns. Not only do they learn about a variety of flowers, their geographic locations, and unique characteristics, they also learn, through the use of numerous exercises and assessments, about their personally unique qualities, talents, and dreams.
     In other words, this book offers, if readers make use of the gardening tools Kathleen and Betsy supply and the action plan they propose, just what the book promises: the opportunity for a Second Blooming during the second part of life.

Review by Linda Wasserman
Publisher, Pelican Press
July 1, 2010

To purchase Second Blooming for Women, and to learn more about the book and about Kathleen and Betsy, visit their Web site at Their Web site also serves as a valuable and convenient source for many of resources they discuss throughout the book.