After losing mother, Downey nurse writes book on caregiving

DOWNEY – A local author is using his experiences – and perhaps mistakes – in order to help educate those who have taken on the role of caretaker for their loved ones. 

When his mother’s health began to deteriorate to the point that she could no longer self-sustain herself, it seemed only logical that John Roche take over her care; he was the oldest child, and had worked several years already at Downey Regional Medical Center (now Downey PIH) as a physical therapist. 

“I saw her struggle…I think that instilled a desire to help her,” said Roche. “I really feel it was my fate. Being that I do this kind of work, it was my fate to take care of her. It was the right decision to take her into my home.”

It still hasn’t been too terribly long since Roche’s mother passed away. However Roche has struggled with questions of “what if,” and has carried a fair amount of guilt with him. 

“Part of it was out of guilt,” said Roche. “I took care of my mom for 10 years, and toward the end – the last couple of years – I didn’t feel like I was doing the best job that I could because I was burned out.

“I didn’t want to be around the house. I was short at times. My temper was poor. There was no abuse or anything like that, it was just in me – comparing the first eight years with the last couple of years – there was a change.”

This change in attitude eventually culminated in a singular incident which Roche believes cost his mother her life. 

“There was an incident…if I had been my former patient self and compassionate self, I know that it would have been handled differently and she probably would have survived longer,” said Roche. “She had a stroke right there in the bathroom. I believe it was due to the stress of me not handling her correctly, and I didn’t handle her correctly because I was impatient and wanted to be done.”

Since his mother’s passing, Roche and his raw experiences have led him to write a book, called “Unforeseen Journey: The Downfalls of Informal or Family Caregiving and the Strategies to Avoid Them.”

He hopes that his experience will help educate and inform those who choose to take on the difficult task of caring for their loved one. 

“My impetus for writing this was I felt guilty about that, and I felt that it could have been prevented... I needed to have a way to pass on to others who do this kind of thing that this is avoidable,” said Roche. “That sensation, that burn out, that total exhaustion is avoidable; not absolutely, but I think it could be made better by being careful of yourself in certain ways.”  

Roche is already working on a second edition of the book, which he expects to be out within the next few months. While much of the book remains the same, he has added some thoughts and ideas based from conversations and experiences he’s had since the book was originally published. 

“Unforeseen Journey” can be ordered on, as well as on Kindle