Book Review: Be the Noodle

by Lois Kelly

World Audience, Inc., 2010

My Rating: A

Opening line: This morning approximately 50 million people, mostly women, woke up to a job they never wanted and have no training for – caring for a loved one who is dying.

This small and intimate book is the perfect companion for someone in the job of caregiver. It consists of fifty lessons for someone thrust into this role. In each lesson the author describes an incident from her own experience in dealing with her mother’s final six months. And then she shares the lesson that she learned from that experience.

These lessons are not healthcare related. They are lessons in how to cope, how to survive and how to handle those people who want to help, but actually drag the loved one down. The lessons are also about making that time the best possible for the loved one. Let me share some of the lesson’s titles:

  • Enough with the banana bread
  • Did you hear about boo boo’s mother-in-law’s next-door neighbor’s cousin?
  • Denial is a bad-ass energy vampire
  • There will be angry words
  • Dying to help: assign people what they’re good at
  • Five things that really piss off caregivers
  • Scared shitless and finding grace
  • More thankfulness, less hope
  • Grab the furlough
  • Dew vs. fog, sadness vs grief

The writing is not melodramatic or hard to handle. Ms. Kelly actually has an appealing sense of humor. One of the lessons is to tell lots of sick jokes. I like that. It’s worked for me in other stressful situations.

I wanted to read this book because of my mother. Mom will be 90 next week. She has done remarkably well, living on her own, since my dad died twenty years ago. For the first time in her life she owned the title to Virginia Woolf’s novel: A Room of Her Own. In my mom’s case she had a house of her own.

My fear had been that she would follow my dad to the grave. They had been together over fifty years. Instead, my mom just blossomed. Never a gardener, she began to grow roses and her yard became a show place. She expanded her other hobbies, volunteered more, and even traveled on her own.

But now, in the past couple of years, things have changed. After a couple of mild strokes and two bad falls, she’s not as mobile as she was. But the real problem is her vascular dementia. Physically, she’s still fairly healthy, although she’s much thinner. (With dementia, she swears she just ate although it was really four hours ago.)

Mentally and emotionally we are losing her. A life-long knitter, she can no longer move the needles to make a decent stitch and not because her hands can’t work. She spends many hours napping and this in a woman who prided herself on only needing six hours of sleep a night. The three main pleasures she has left are reading, watching baseball games, and her family and friends which, so far, she still recognizes.

We’ve not been given a physical diagnosis of so many months but we have with the vascular dementia. It won’t be too much longer and she will not know her family. It is so strange to think that our mother, as herself, is terminal. It’s not right to be physically alive but terminal in every other way.

We’ve all been researching the problem and have gathered lots of books and websites that help. I’ll share those in some future post. In the meantime, I recommend Be the Noodle for anyone facing caregiving issues.

Another review of the book you may want to check out: Tutu’s 2 Cents

Thanks to Lois Kelly for sending me this book. Be the Noodle: Fifty Ways to Be a Compassionate, Courageous, Crazy-Good Caregiver is available on Amazon. (I am an Amazon Associate.)

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12 Responses to Book Review: Be the Noodle

  1. Molly says:

    I have been in this situation twice (so far) in life. My dad died 5 years ago and my mom did not handle it well. In fact, she began to hallucinate and created an imaginative tale that he had faked his own death and run away to marry someone else. It appeared that she could deal with unfaithfulness better than death itself.

    Two years later she was diagnosed with ‘failure to thrive’ syndrome. She was put on hospice and I was told that she would not make it to Christmas (this was in mid-October). But mom is a strong-willed woman and apparently all she needed to hear was that she wouldn’t make it — and she rallied. One month later hospice released her.

    I know that I will have at least one more opportunity to deal with these difficult issues so I, for one, look forward to your posts to help me handle this phase of life.

  2. Kay says:

    Margot, thanks for highlighting this book. Sigh. I am dealing with exactly the same issue with my mother. My Dad died about 18 months ago – Alzheimer’s. Didn’t think we would have to deal with dementia again, but apparently Mom was already moving on down the path. We had just been a little too preoccupied with Dad to notice completely. She has had a very bad last couple of weeks.

    I do understand. I don’t know your exact journey, but I know it is a journey that each of us must face. Hugs to you. Mostly, you are aware and you are taking steps to prepare. That’s important I think.

    I had a ritual that I used with my Dad and I now use with my Mom when I see her. I leave telling her that I love her every single time. It’s the last thing I say to her. That way, it will be the last thing I say to her when that time comes. It was with my Dad. Take care, Margot. Thanks for the info about the book. It sounds like something I would really enjoy and should seek out.

  3. This sounds great. Books like this are so incredibly needed! You might also be interested in the most recent Susan Hill (mystery) book I read, “The Vows of Silence” which also deals with caretaking.

  4. Barbara says:

    I’ve had this book on my radar for a while now (from Tutu’s Two Cents, I guess) and I’m glad to be reminded of it. I’ve been a caregiver several times in my life; my dad had Alzheimer’s so I know that journey all too well. I like the advice “more thankfulness, less hope.” I’m glad your mother had those wonderful years when you say she blossomed. That will give you some great memories when she doesn’t know you anymore.

  5. I need to get this book for my mother. At 83, she’s the primary caregiver for my 90 year old father. He still has his mental faculties, but neuropathy has really decreased his mobility. My mother usually has a positive outlook, but some days really get to her. It’s so difficult watching your parents age.

  6. kaye says:

    I enjoyed your review–sounds like a must read for anyone caring for an aging parent. I have a reference book “How to Care for Aging Parents” by Viriginia Morris that I have found very helpful as well.

  7. BooksPlease says:

    This is a problem for so many people – my mother-in-law was the same. It is so sad to see someone who was so active and busy just deteriorate before your eyes. Your post is lovely tribute to your mother – take care and look after yourself too.

  8. I like that she can write with humor — people don’t realize how much laughter is needed at these times! I should probably give the book now to my kids (only half-kidding here — it still boggles my mind to BE the oldest generation — the aging parents!)

  9. cerrin says:

    Well humor is great…But I dont think Grandma would apreciate the humor.
    I mean Margot got the crazy one liners we would throw out and try to come up with the best ones…Dad Sweeping you off your feet…I do have my favorite too…;)
    But Grandma would say we were making fun of her or laughing AT her. So I will just keep the jokes to myself. lol But that does seem like a good book to share with the family.

  10. Stacy says:

    My Mom is going through some of this with my grandmother right now. My grandma still lives in the house my grandpa built 65 years ago, but her sight and memory are close to gone. My mom lives 5 minutes away, but I worry that even that will be too far soon.

  11. Staci says:

    My heart goes out to you said it so eloquently about “It’s not right to be physically alive but terminal in every other way.” Losing someone to this illness is the hardest thing ever. Thanks for reading this book and letting us know about it. I pray that I never have to do this for my parents but chances are it will be my turn just like my mom and dad took care of their parents.

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