Book Review: Career and Caregiving

By: Mary-Catherine McClain

[Editor's Note: This book review originally appeared in Career Convergence Web Magazine in March 2011.  It is being reprinted as part of our Special Book Review issue now.]


Gelardin, S. (2009). Career and Caregiving: Empowering the Shadow Workforce of FamilyCaregivers. Broken Arrow, OK: National Career Development Association.


Summary of Themes

The title of this National Career Development Association Monograph Series 2009 publication accurately describes its purpose, contents, and central themes. Specifically, it provides information to those individuals in the “shadow workforce” as well as career counselors and other professionals who are trying to balance career, caregiving, and personal responsibilities. Further, the chapters of the monograph appear in chronological stages for the purposes of identifying roles, exploring challenges, and describing fundamental characteristics associated with each stage that a caregiver will likely experience. Finally, it seems that Dr. Gelardin not only wants to highlight an area of research that needs significant attention, but also to provide a useful resource filled with stories, strategies, and tools for professionals seeking guidance or information on the relationship between career, caregiving, and one’s decisions.


Following a stage model depiction of the caregiving process, the monograph is organized into six sections and sixteen chapters. The first two chapters provide a brief overview of family caregiving, explicitly related to assessment, planning, and preparation. Stress management, self-care, and achieving integration between career and caregiving roles are the focus of section two. Chapter Seven and Chapter Eight discuss how recovering from caregiving can serve as a learning experience and opportunity for self-renewal as well as the importance of enlisting support networks. After describing the stages of how to prepare for caregiving, engaging in the process itself, and using the caregiving experience as a source of power for recovering, the monograph offers insight on moving forward and techniques for meeting the responsibilities of caregiving as individuals grow older.


The remaining eight chapters continue to describe the journey of several caregivers as each travels forward, accepting the reality that caregiving responsibilities will be encountered throughout the lifespan. Additionally, the latter part of the monograph highlights the fact that individuals act as both providers and recipients of caregiving. Prioritizing needs and brief reflections represent an intervention counselors can implement for helping individuals achieve balance among roles. Finally, Gelardin (2009) and the other highly experienced contributors provide recommendations (e.g., journaling, exercise, meditation, music) for caregivers, counselors, and other professionals to implement when supporting caregivers of the “shadow workforce.”


Critical Review

Gelardin (2009) provides comprehensive information that was empirically supported while simultaneously offering the audience rich stories based on the lives of several leading professionals within the career, educational, and business field. Further, the monograph is filled with powerful statistics, cultural considerations (Chapter 5), examples of assessment tools (e.g. COPE Scale), and helpful strategies (e.g., meditation) for achieving balance between career and caregiving. Third, the monograph captures a range of potential illnesses as well as patient types, whether from a father suffering Alzheimer’s or a spouse battling cancer. An additional strength is related to its ability to address a gap within the literature that has the potential for negative consequences without increased attention. As other studies have found, the responsibilities of a caregiver may adversely impact his/her physical and mental health—often leading to decreased productivity at the workplace (Bookman & Harrington, 2007). Similarly, researchers have been encouraged to publish articles empowering caregivers through personal stories that provide practical lessons, stress reduction techniques, and information on maintaining a career while caregiving (Kane & West, 2005). In addition to being well-organized and based on up-to-date references, the monograph was concise, clear, insightful, interesting, and appropriate for a variety of audiences—including career and non-career focused individuals.


Although Gelardin’s (2009) monograph included many strengths and successfully demonstrated the importance of supporting family caregivers, both through modified workplace policies and empowerment strategies, the publication is not without flaws. One area for improvement is providing additional information on how to begin discussions with loved ones who are at risk for needing a caregiver. For example, learning about the powers of attorney and what steps are necessary for specifying wishes and wills. Another suggestion is including checklists throughout the monograph that would actively engage readers while also increasing preparedness. Alternatively, providing self-assessments to foster self-reflection, clarify needs, and identify any stage where additional support may be necessary (Kemp, 2008). Finally, it would be helpful for the author to provide resources that go beyond sources reported in the reference section. Whether at the end of each chapter, after a whole section, or at the conclusion of the monograph, a list of online websites, scholarly books, support groups, professional counselors, hospice care options, and other related resources would be fruitful. Similarly, including stories and ideas from professionals outside the counseling or business field, such as medical doctors, financial consultants, aging specialists, and spiritual leaders, would further enhance the value of this monograph for any caregiver.


In summary, future research and resources are needed for caregivers of the “shadow workforce,” but this monograph represents a crucial first step in providing information that is effective, insightful, comprehensive, and reader-friendly for individuals engaging in or preparing for the caregiving process.



Bookman, A., & Harrington, M. (2007). Family caregivers: A shadow workforce in the geriatrichealth care system? Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law, 32, 1005-1041. doi:10.1215/03616878-2007-040.


Kane, R. & West, J. (2005). It Shouldn’t Be This Way: The Failure of Long-Term Care. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.


Kemp, J. (2008). Reflections for a Caregiver. Charleston, SC: BookSurge.


This monograph is available in the online NCDA Career Store


Mary Catherine McClainMary-Catherine McClain, Ed.S, M.S., is a career advisor in the Career Center at Florida State University and a current doctoral student in the combined Counseling Psychology and School Psychology program. She may be reached at the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems, College of Education, Florida State University, 3210 Stone Building, Tallahassee, FL 32306. Phone: 864-934-2322; Email: mcmmcclain@gmail.com; Fax: 850-644-3273.