Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Interview with author Harriet Tramer

I'm pleased to have as my guest today, author, reporter, freelance writer and professor, Harriet Tramer. Harriet has written a wonderful little book about caring for an elder. Please give her a warm welcome.

Rounding the Circle of Love
Quality paperback, 100 pages
Price: $10.00, plus S&H
ISBN 9781889409504

1. Many other books that focus on caring for the elderly - particularly those who have memory loss - are currently being marketed. Alzheimer’s disease seems to be the topic of the day. Why is this book unique?

This text presents information garnered from experts in many different fields – medicine, law, nursing, exercise therapy, etc. And that fact grants it a different dynamic than a more traditional “how to book” might offer; it is “thought-provoking, or at least represents an attempt to be. Yet, it is both approachable and concise, allowing readers to take good advantage of the time they spend perusing it.

2. What is the major message care givers should gain from reading this book?

When you act as a caregiver for an elder, you must also care for yourself. And that fact often translates into being realistic as regards what you can and cannot accomplish. If you can only devote a limited number of hours a week to care giving, you should be honest about that point. You must avoid over committing yourself, something that could prove disastrous for all involved.

Acting as a caregiver, grants you the opportunity to develop talents you never imagined you had. You might, for example, have always figured that you cannot even boil water. Yet, in time, you might find yourself preparing very appetizing meals for your elder.

3. What message could this book deliver to people who are not presently and might never be family caregivers?

You can accomplish almost anything you set out to accomplish. But often in the process of reaching your goals, you must accept help. And that is something you might, at least initially, be uncomfortable acknowledging.

4. Why did you write this book?

I was a caregiver for my mother (now deceased) for many years. And during that period of time, I came to realize handling these responsibilities can prove very stressful. And I wanted to write a text that would help persons who are facing these challenges.

5. What did you gain from writing this book?

I came to understand that many people with extensive expertise can be called upon to assist caregivers. And the help which is available to them is expanding every day; home health care aides represent the “fastest” growing profession” in our economy. However, I just as quickly began to realize a “harsh” reality. Finances often stand in the way of care givers receiving the support they need. The imperative to close that gap remains powerful.

6. Your book talks about people serving as family caregivers. Increasingly more people, particularly baby boomers are assuming this role. How has this fact changed our world?

It has “transformed” our workplace. Workers who serve as caregivers are under considerable stress. What happens, for example, when their elder needs special attention at the same time they have a work project due? How can employers handle these conflicts with sensitivity? How much is it their responsibility to attempt being “sensitive” in this regard?

On a broader level, gender roles have been tweaked. Once women were the caregivers, no questions asked. But with more women entering the work force some of these responsibilities have fallen to men.

7. How does some of the information in your book break with orthodoxies?

The book presents the possibility that a slower and more literally hands on approach might best serve the elderly. And it also indicates that money spent on high tech medicine at the end of patients’ life might not be a judicious use of valuable resources.

And this quote expresses the opinion – voiced by an expert in the field - that efforts to “label” somebody as having Alzheimer’s at the earliest possible moment are imperative.

Dr. Peter Whitehouse author of The Myth of Alzheimer’s: What You Aren’t Told About Today’s Most Dreaded Diagnosis,

“People with so-called Alzheimer’s can be as much a victim of labeling as they are of their disease,” Dr. Whitehouse said. “We should work from the assumption that everybody is experiencing brain aging and we are all in this together. Because once you start labeling people as having Alzheimer’s you get two groups of people - people who have Alzheimer’s and those who are terrified of getting it.”

8. How does the book suggest people deal with the stress of being a family caregiver?

The answer to that one is a mixed message. They must rely upon their own inner strength, developing talents they never figured they had, as they serve as a nurse, financial record keeper, etc. However, they must come to understand their limits and seek help when they need it. They walk a tight rope, but learning to maintain that precarious balance can greatly reduce their stress.

9. When you wrote this book, did you come away with the impression that being a family caregiver now is different than it might have been even 5 years ago?

The resources that are open to family caregivers now are much more extensive than were the resources available to them only a few years back.

Our economy is responding to the needs of an aging population by offering a wide array of products/ services. The number of home health care agencies is, for example, booming. Which brings up an important issue: quantity does not always translate into quality; you have to be discerning.

10. How can you tell if you are positioned to bring an elder home and provide for their care?

You have to complete a careful appraisal of your financial and other resources. The book has a survey instrument which can help you to do that. Unfortunately, even architectural barriers can make keeping an elder in their home difficult. These are all things which must be considered.

I came to understand that many people with extensive expertise can be called upon to assist caregivers. And the help which is available to them is expanding every day; home health care aides represent the “fastest” growing profession” in our economy. However, I just as quickly began to realize a “harsh” reality. Finances often stand in the way of care givers receiving the support they need. The imperative to close that gap remains powerful.

It's been a honour speaking with you today, Harriet. Thanks for all you do.

Harriet with her mother Frances. Harriet Tramer has worked as a journalist and teacher for more than 30 years.
She drew upon this experience as she interviewed experts in a wide range of fields – law, medicine, social work – while writing this book.
Yet, her connection to care giving is also more personal. She long served as  a caregiver for her mother, Frances


Harriet Tramer has a Bachelor of Arts Major in Political Science from Chatham College, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has a Masters of Science, Applied Communication Research & Methodology from Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio. Harriet also has a Masters of Science, Urban Studies, Specialization in Economic Development, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio. She is the Adjunct Professor at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland and New School University in New York. Harriet's biography was accepted into Who's Who in America, 2011 edition.


  1. Harriet - Fantastic information!
    Joylene - thank you so much for hosting Harriet on your blog

  2. My father had Alzheimer's, as did the husband of my best friend, so I know something of the heartache and challenges. Finances do indeed make a difference in how a family might be able to cope, and that inequality adds such unfair stress for them. I found the differences in options here in BC compared to my friend's situation in WA were shocking. My friend went through hell alongside her husband.

    Thanks for sharing this interview. I wish Harriet much success getting her words of information and encouragement out where they can help others.

  3. thank you, Nanci, for bringing Harriet to my attention. Her book is so important and will be so helpful for a lot of people.

    Thank you, Harriet.

  4. Thanks, Carol. I knew as soon as I read Harriet's answers that her book was a big asset. I just wish I'd read it while my mother was still alive, or when my mother-in-law was still living with us. It would have made both situations much easier.

  5. I know firsthand the challenges of looking after an elderly person. It was nice to hear Harriet's perspective; her book sounds just wonderful.

  6. Hi Anita. I was very impressed when I first heard about Harriet's book. I too know first-hand what caring for an elder means. I wish I'd had Harriet's book back then.

  7. A very informatinve interview. The book sounds like a helpful resource. Thank you.

  8. Thanks for letting us know, Beverly. Have a great week.

  9. Thanks for all the nice comments about my book.

    Harriet Tramer

  10. You are so very welcome, Harriet. What you're doing is admirable. Best wishes in the future.


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