Books, Reviews

Be With: Book Review

In Be With: Letters to a Caregiver, author Mike Barnes has penned a book to accompany individuals as they care for a loved one. The Toronto writer understands that the target audience for his book doesn’t have much time for reading, which keeps the book short and easy to read. As of the book’s 2018 publication, Barnes had spent seven years caring for his mother through Alzheimer’s, and he realizes the demands and the toll this can take on a caregiver. Yet at the same time, he also realizes that caregivers could use any extra little bit of support they can get.

The book consists of four sections dedicated to an anonymous caregiver, and each passage is no longer than two pages. Knowing that there will be limited time to read, the book is a “companion in waiting rooms, on bus routes, or while a loved one naps.”

In a thoughtful and honest manner, Barnes takes readers through his own journey caring for his mother as she progressed through the stages of dementia. He isn’t afraid to share the realities of what forms it can take, and the toll it takes on him. Phone calls come in the middle of the night, care homes say that their time there has come to a close, and there are constant reminders of memory loss. All the while, he must continue to take care of himself.

But at the same time, he remembers to appreciate the “glimpses of triumph” that stem from simply being with his mother: the joy of seeing her sway to music, of reading to her, of being around nature where she feels more herself.  He might feel frightened upon arriving to see her, but always less so after spending time at her side.

The advice Barnes shares is practical and poignant. He acknowledges that being a flawless hero isn’t a reality; that you will have to ask the moon of yourself, but at the same time forgive yourself for being human. Weaving together big picture themes along with small tidbits of advice, he provides a resource that is equal parts handbook, motivator, and source of clarity.

Be With is available in the Elder Care section in the Family Care Office Library, along with 500+ other titles and resources.