REVIEW: Already Toast: Caregiving and Burnout in America, Kate Washington

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Review

The events of the pandemic have had us thinking a lot more about the role of carers, where they work, and who they serve. “Long Covid” may mean we’ll have a far larger population in need of long-term care–and who’s going to do it?

Kate Washington’s book Already Toast is part memoir, part manifesto, recounting her experiences caring for her husband after his cancer diagnosis. Putting her career on hold with two young children, Washington found herself in the stressful role of family caregiver. The American healthcare system, of course, makes this especially complicated. Thanks to insurance battles, Washington often directly oversaw her husband’s care, administering medications and picc lines herself. She, predictably, found herself burnt out to the point of being “already toast”.

For those who have been in a caregiving role before, I imagine this book will be very validating. Washington also offers tangible advice for those who want to support those in a caregiving role. While a “call if you need anything” text might be appreciated, caregivers are often more grateful if you run an errand for them or watch their kids for the day.

The “manifesto” part of this book is a fairly basic message that caregivers deserve pay. Washington makes a good case here, and especially advocates for the recognition of friends and unmarried partners as caregivers too. Where Washington peters out a bit is when she gets to the race stuff. Women of colour are far more likely to serve as family caregivers than white women, but she doesn’t get much firsthand perspective on this.

Interviews would’ve been helpful here, but she mostly relies on pull quotes from other articles. Also underexplored is how the professional care industry is woefully underpaid and often dominated by immigrant women of colour. Just mentioning these issues isn’t really enough–I want to see Washington use her platform to actually advocate for these populations.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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