‘Timely, lyrical, tough, accurate, and ultimately not (too) depressing. Or as my aunts used to say, Roll up your sleeves.’—Margaret Atwood
Poet Mike Barnes has spent years caring for his mother, Mary, through the stages of moderate, severe, very severe and late-stage Alzheimer’s. In an eloquent series of letters, addressed to an anonymous long-term dementia carer, he transforms his own increasingly challenging experience into a wellspring of clarity and understanding, support and solace.
This is no ordinary practical care guide. Using bite-sized paragraphs perfectly designed for harried carers to dip into, Barnes tells a compelling personal story that unfolds a side of dementia almost entirely missing from public discussion:
‘All people with dementia, and some of them strikingly, show depths of sensitive awareness, resilience rising to heroism, and a capacity for joyful relatedness.’
Calming and contemplative yet fiercely alive, this consoling, humane and surprisingly uplifting book balances candour about the devastations of dementia with inspiring insights into its paradoxical and often uncanny enhancements of life, the ways in which it sometimes calls forth capacities long-buried by the defences of full cognition.
Addressed to carers but relevant and deeply important for us all, Be With encourages us to focus on fellowship and accurate witness: to simply be with who, and what, is actually before us.