Sunday, August 12, 2012

Special Exits - A must read for those caring for aging loved ones

I first became aware of Joyce Farmer's book Special Exits when Rick the Librarian wrote the following on his site:
I suspect many people who would really appreciate Special Exits have not seen it. Boomers taking care of their elderly parents are not as a group very aware of graphic novels. That's too bad, because the book dramatizes a situation in which they may find themselves - trying to respectfully manage the lives of people who have lost the ability to care for themselves. The complications are many: bad health, poverty, delusions, loss of memory, reluctance to accept help, etc. The demands are many: sacrifice time, negotiate calmly, tolerate idiosyncrasies, lose battles gracefully, and learn to guide the elderly to make the decisions that you know that they have to make.
I believe Rick is correct, most baby boomers including myself are not aware of graphic novels. I've only read one other in my lifetime - Maira Kalman's And the Pursuit of Happiness - and recall not being overly impressed with it. The fact that many of my friends and co-workers are now taking care of their parents and that my own mother is beginning to need assistance I decided to give the book a chance.

What is Special Exits about?
In an interview at Skylight Books Joyce Farmer tells us it is a memoir about her experience during the 1980s and '90s caring for her ailing elderly parents. Told chronologically, the graphic novel focuses on her father and stepmother's struggles to maintain independence in the face of lung cancer and Alzheimer's disease, and Farmer's increasingly all-encompassing role as their nursemaid and provider.

My opinion:
I was drawn into the book immediately; finishing it in a couple of days.  The storyline was at times funny at others poignant and in the end heartbreaking.  The books characters Lars and Harriet remind me quite a bit of my in-laws who remained in their own home caring for each other until my father-in-law passed away at age 90. My husband and his sister attempted to assist their parents in the same manner as Laura, Lars and Harriet’s daughter, attempts to assist them. Upon reading some of the book aloud to my husband he couldn’t help but wonder what really occurred in his parent’s home when he wasn’t present.  Lars and Harriet make several concessions such as not scheduling doctor appointments or purchasing medicines when it wasn’t convenient that severely compromised their quality of life down the road. They withheld many of these decisions from Laura until it was too late.  

Bottom line:
I highly recommend anyone who is caring for an aged loved one to read this book. It may help you make better decisions when faced with similar situations as those portrayed in this book.  For me, I wouldn’t be surprised if Special Exits ends up on my list of "best books read in 2012."

Please note, I am an Amazon affiliate


  1. Wish i had read something like this before Mother "took sick". I was totally unprepared, even tho we had talked many times. The reality is so different from the prospect. Thanks for highliting a good book.

  2. This book sounds so, so great. I am definitely going to read it once I'm done my current one ! I have a feeling I am going to be crying a lot.. I find alzheimer's one of the most heartbreaking diseases.

  3. I no longer have these issues, but sure wish I had a book like this when I did. Thanks for sharing, Savvy!

  4. My mother is in this situation now, with the added hardship of not living in the same country as my grandmother. I doubt I'd ever get her to read a graphic novel, though. "Those are for kids," she'd say.

    Happy Sharefest!

  5. Webb,
    “The reality is so different from the prospect.”
    So true and a huge part of the problem.

  6. Gillian,
    If you so read the book come back and share your thoughts.

  7. Monica,
    My pleasure. Thanks for stopping in.

  8. Classic NYer,
    This sounds tough for your mom. I didn't think I would like a graphic novel either, so I was pleasantly surprised. She could always pick up a copy from the library, so she wouldn’t be out the cash if it wasn’t for her.

    As a former- fellow tea party member- I’ve enjoyed seeing you over on SITS. I really like their “Saturday Sharefest” and have met quite a few new bloggers. Thanks for stopping in.