Photo: Jennifer A. O’Brien
(Little Rock, Ark.)—A local self-taught artist whose work supports those delivering end-of-life care for others is the winner of a prestigious Nautilus Book Award.
Jennifer O’Brien’s book, The Hospice Doctor’s Widow: A Journal, was honored with a Silver Award in the “Death & Dying/Grief & Loss” category. It was a winner among more than 550 entries from across the U.S.
In the book, O’Brien chronicles her 22-month journey caring for her husband, Dr. Bob Lehmberg, who died of cancer in 2017. She takes readers through a personal and frank conversation about her own reality—the same reality facing millions of caregivers daily—through art and journaling.
The book was released by Et Alia Press just weeks before COVID-19 afflicted millions and shuttered businesses across the nation.
O’Brien notes that, even before COVID hit, about 53 million family caregivers spent up to 37 hours a week caring for loved ones facing death. She said the award validates the essential conversations surrounding end-of-life issues that need to occur more often.
“The conversations are especially important for those who are probably going to outlive the person they are providing care for,” she said. “This book is one attempt to help caregivers feel supported caring for others, while also taking care of themselves.”
Her physician husband dedicated much of his 40-year career to caring for seriously ill and injured patients, she said. O’Brien depicts the raw and exhausting truth of caregiving for him, simultaneously providing insights gleaned from his medical expertise on palliative care.
“Caregiving for someone you love who is going to die is both the hardest job you will ever do, and it is the greatest honor,” she said. “It is tough to balance those.”
Essential Facts About Caregiving in the U.S.
Caregiving takes a mental, emotional, and physical toll on millions of Americans each year. Statistics from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Research Report May 2020 (pre COVID-19) reveal the following:
- There are 53 million uncompensated caregivers delivering care for other adults in the U.S.; 89% are caring for a relative and 72% are caring for spouse or parent.
- The average caregiver is 49.5 years old; 3 in 5 are women.
- An average of 37.4 hours per week of caregiving is delivered when the caregiver lives with the patient, while an average of almost 15 hours per week is given when not living with the care recipient.
- The average duration of caregiving lasts 4.5 years (most until the care recipient’s death).
More about the author
Jennifer O’Brien is an author, artist, and speaker focused on sharing her experience with caregivers and survivors struggling after a loved one has died. She hopes to assist caregivers—the “ubiquitous, unsung heroes of our time”—and those who want to support them through honest discussions about end-of-life issues.
O’Brien’s comprehensive healthcare background includes work as a management consultant and physician educator for 30+ years, as well as serving in administration for major medical centers and as an executive administrator for large medical practices.
She was featured at the 2020 University of Iowa before the Life Examined Conference and the 2020 Six Bridges Book Festival. Visit hospicedrswidow.com for more.
About the Nautilus Awards
Over the last two decades, this unique program has gained global prestige. Awards are given for “exceptional literary contributions to spiritual growth, green values & sustainability, high-level wellness, responsible leadership and positive social change & social justice, as well as to the worlds of art, creativity and inspirational reading for children, teens and young adults.”
Past nautilus award recipients have come from a diverse range of writers and celebrated contributors, from meditation and well-being pioneer, Dr. Deepak Chopra, to South African cleric and human rights activist Desmond Tutu, and more.
Visit nautilusbooksawards.com for more information.