You'd Better Not Die or I'll Kill You
A Caregiver’s Survival Guide to Keeping You
in Good Health and Good Spirits
Jane thought she'd found her dream husband in handsome, healthy Michael, a sailor and architectural photographer, until it turned out he'd been hospitalized nearly seventy-five times before they met. Afflicted with Crohn's disease, Michael wasn't so healthy after all, and Jane learned that being a caregiver can strain even the most solid relationships.
With her sly wit and novelist's eye, she shares her experiences - from how to get that cranky surgeon to talk to you ("box the doc") to why men should never go to a doctor without a woman along ("nagging wives save lives"). Throughout, she consults her "roundtable" of caregivers, such as Emmy Award-winning actor Victor Garber and "Dear Abby" columnist Jeanne Phillips, to answer the question "Am I the only one who feels this way?" Plus, advice from experts brings you the most up-to-date guidance on staying healthy and sane while caring for a loved one. You'll find tips from meditation teachers, fitness instructors, therapists, even a cookbook author with recipes for stressed out caregivers. Nothing's off-limits in the book: not living wills, not sibling rivalry, not friendship, not sex.
Whether you're wrestling with the decision to place Mom in a nursing home or assisted living community, confronting the challenges of having a chronically or critically ill spouse, or coping with the stress of raising a child with an illness or disability, Jane is your trusty companion in this personal and invaluable resource - an irreverent yet always compassionate girlfriend's guide to caregiving.
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This book is the perfect companion for every caregiver. You only have to read the Table of Contents to know Jane Heller has given you the gifts of comfort, humor, strength and solidarity. Take it to the waiting room and always keep it within easy reach!
RN, Chief Operating Officer, Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care of Santa Barbara
Jane's book is so engaging and entertaining. She tells her own caregiving story, and provides insights into everything from siblings to doctors to hospitals. Great read!
Host of the PBS Special “Stuck in the Middle: Caring for Mom and Dad” and Eldercare Author
Jane Heller's humorous and compassionate book has real-world advice for caregivers of all kinds, covering topics from diet and exercise, to surviving long hours in hospitals and being taken seriously by medical providers. Jane even covers topics others don’t, such as the sex life of the caregiver, and finding humor and the silver lining in a world of despair. With input from experienced caregivers, it's a must-read for all who face this daunting task.
Susan Disney Lord
2012 Alzheimer's Association Southland Chapter Caregiver of the Year
A combination of autobiography, anecdotes from other caregivers, and interviews with experts, this gem of a book makes good on its promise. Written in a no nonsense style with a healthy dose of humor, it offers a wealth of advice on everything from navigating the healthcare system to getting more sleep to the importance of human touch. It's a valuable resource for caregivers – whether taking care of someone with a stroke, Crohn's disease, dementia or many other conditions. I recommend it highly.
author of the award-winning Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy
Jane Heller takes us on her heartfelt, humor-filled journey caring for her husband, channeling Nora Ephron along the way. This is a must-read eye witness account of what it takes to care for a loved one and how to keep your spirits lifted in the process.
CEO, Caregiving Club
Aug 13, 2013
Q: Your most recent book, You'd Better Not Die or I'll Kill You, is a guide for caregivers, based on your experiences with your husband, who has Crohn's disease. Why did you decide to write this book, and how did you manage to insert humor into what can be a very difficult topic?
A: I wrote "You'd Better Not Die or I'll Kill You" after my editor told me she was acquiring wellness books and asked if I had anything to contribute to the subject. I hesitated and then said, "Well, I've been a caregiver to my husband, who has a chronic illness, for twenty years. Maybe I could write about that."
She seemed very excited and asked for a book that would not only offer my own personal experiences caring for a spouse, but include interviews with others who care for a child, friend or elderly relative, plus advice from a variety of experts in the field.
When I began the project, I was astounded by how many people - 65 million in the U.S. alone - are caregivers and how, as our parents age, that number is only going to increase. So my book is an attempt to enliven the topic for caregivers by using humor wherever possible (that's where the title comes from; it's literally what I say to my husband before he goes into surgery).
My 13 novels are all romantic comedies, so humor has always been my way of seeing the world. Caregivers, in particular, have to laugh every now and then or we'd go mad.
That said, there are many subjects I cover in the book that aren't funny and I deal with them accordingly. I wanted to write a survival guide that would validate caregivers and promote their good health and let them know they're not alone.
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Aug 7, 2013
By Marty Bell, National Aging in Place Council Age in Place Newsletter
Author Jane Heller is a literary entertainer whom, after 13 comic novels, has taken on as a subject the anguish of providing care to a loved one and yet somehow manages to tell her non-fiction compassionate tale with the humor that is her trademark. In You’d Better Not Die or I’ll Kill You: A Caregiver’s Survival Guide to Keeping You In Good Health and Good Spirits, Heller takes us through nearly 20 years of the practical and emotional struggle of being right there at every moment for her husband Michael as he battles Crohn’s disease. Jane and Michael are very brave people and reading their story--a love story set against the romantic backdrop of hospital wards--will make you feel braver.
I confess Jane and I have been friends for more years than she would want me to tell. (Hint: We attended an Ali-Frazier fight at Madison Square Garden together.) And I have watched her evolve as a skillful storyteller with great admiration. From early on she has been a perspicacious observer of behavior, both other peoples’ and her own. But in this book she reaches a level of raw honesty, often at her own expense, that I find rare and moving.
“I wanted to express (and encourage you to express) the emotions we all have when caring for a loved one but often too guilt-ridden, fearful, or embarrassed to say what’s really on our minds,” Heller writes. And she doesn’t hold back. Emotions fly at you; responses to doctors, nurses, supposed friends, family who should know better, healers, dealers, religious shpielers, even Michael. And all of it accompanied by a chorus of other amateur caregivers sharing their own emotional battles.
Caregiving is a topic du jour as the Boomers approach that age while still supporting children finding their way and parents living longer than anyone imagined. We’re told 70 percent of aging Americans need in-home care at some point, but who’s going to supply it? All of us, apparently--making You’d Better Not Die or I’ll Kill You a mandatory read.
Fri Feb 22, 2013
By Richard Maxwell, Porter Adventist Hospital Lib., Denver
The worst-paid job in health care offers among its benefits the longest hours, the fewest days off, and the most consistent stress. Caregivers include the family members or good friends who are there for those with chronic illness, the disabled, and the dying. Novelist Heller (Female Intelligence), now a caregiver to her husband, explains that she, like many others, didn’t choose the role but slowly adapted to it. Here she discusses practical problems and emotions that caregivers of all types face and offers suggestions for coping. She goes beyond her personal experiences by including comments from other caregivers she’s come to know, calling them the book’s Greek chorus. Candid interviews with professionals whom unpaid caregivers sometimes view as adversaries offer useful perspective. Tips range from the pragmatic, such as how to deal with time in a waiting room, to the profound, as in the chapter “Getting Through the Goodbye.”
VerdictWriting with humor and a relaxed style, Heller has produced a valuable, virtual support group in book form that could be beneficial to any caregiver.
December 19, 2012
A lot of attention is given to coping with chronic illness. Sometimes we forget that not only is the patient coping with limitations, discomfort, and frustration. Caregivers also can be profoundly affected by the illnesses of those for whom they’re caring.
In You’d Better Not Die or I’ll Kill You, Jane Heller gives a voice to those many hardworking, sacrificing caregivers who have previously often been neglected.
When Heller married, she knew her future husband had Crohn’s disease, but couldn’t comprehend or imagine the impact those two little words would have on their years together as she shifted from girlfriend to caregiver. Heller helps validate common feelings and frustrations and lets you know you’re not alone. She openly discusses conflicts with healthcare providers, family, and friends and frustrations when your partner’s personality seems to change or you feel guilty going to work instead of staying with your loved one. She includes stories of other caregivers, so you’ll likely find stories similar to yours. Heller also offers sound practical advice for coping with the added difficulties of being a caregiver:
- Specific questions to ask to help you communicate with your doctor
- Sleep tips for caregivers
- Figuring out when it’s time to see a mental health specialist
This book will truly be a blessing for those many caregivers who often feel frustrated, angry, misunderstood, and guilty. This book will be an affirmation to let you know you’re not alone, that your work is incredibly important, and that there are effective strategies other caregivers have found helpful that might also be applied to help your situation be a bit easier to bear.
Fri Nov 30, 2012
By Lawrence Bocchiere III, President "The Wellspouse® Association"
As president of the Well Spouse Association I read and review many books on caregiving. In our organization we have our own face-to-face support groups, reminiscent of the groups appearing in vignettes in this book. The book is absolutely wonderful….Though many such books are informative, I have never ENJOYED reading a book about caregiving before! Ms Heller uses humor to mitigate pain; and the vignettes from her 'support group' closely mirror the actual discussion that occurs on any subject in Well Spouse face to face support groups! I highly encourage tired caregivers and those that could become caregivers to take the time to read this book. You will be glad you did.
Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
November 5, 2012
Novelist Heller (The Secret Ingredient) is no stranger to illness; her father had brain cancer, her stepfather had complications from epilepsy, and she married a man with severe Crohn's disease. So readers might assume, Heller acknowledges, this is a "bad news book." But it is actually candid, informative, upbeat, and sometimes ribald. Heller discusses complex but essential topics—such as making nurses your friends and the competing demands of work and caregiving, frequently via mini-interviews with a relevant professional, such as an ER doctor (who explains why ER waits are so long), ICU nurse ("family members become our patients in a way"), or attorney (on getting patients to sign essential legal documents like advance directives). Her breezy tone strikes just the right note for difficult subjects like wishing your loved one would "disappear" and more practical discussions like why cooking for oneself is important. The array of perspectives adds a richness to the discussion. It's impossible to write a book like this without addressing the emotional issue of saying good-bye, but Heller characteristically follows that with an upbeat "silver linings" chapter. This is a useful book for patients and caregivers alike. (Nov.)
I was spending an afternoon with Leigh Haber, my friend and the editor of my "She-Fan" book, and I said, "What are you working on these days?" She replied, "I'm acquiring wellness books for Chronicle."
Wellness books, I thought. I can write one of those.
Of course, I had no idea what a "wellness book" was, except maybe a guide to dieting or exercising or even meditating? And then Leigh explained that the genre can include all sorts of topics - from health care to creativity - and that she was looking for books that would spark discussion and find an audience that could relate.
I flashed back to the previous year when my husband Michael, who has a chronic illness called Crohn's disease, was hospitalized numerous times and had two major surgeries, and how I'd been pondering our 20 years' worth of adventures involving his being sick and my being his caregiver and how that dynamic had impacted our relationship. At the same time, my mother was well into her '90s and having memory problems, and my sister and I had been concerned about her living at home alone. And then I thought about all the different ways people are being called to action as caregivers - parents caring for a child with an illness or disability, wives caring for husbands and partners who are sick or (or vice versa), baby boomers caring for their aging parents, military families caring for an injured soldier. I'd read that there were an estimated 65 million caregivers in the U.S. alone, and I found the statistic staggering.
"Leigh," I said. "I'd like to write a wellness book for you. Interested?"
Fortunately, she said yes and we came up with a hybrid - part memoir, part how-to that would be both personal and prescriptive. I really hope the book will be a supportive "pal" to anyone going through the caregiving experience.