Book Review: The Caregiver in MidLife by Ellen Besso

The Caregiver in MidLife
Where Theirs Needs End and Yours Begin
By Ellen Besso
(Self-Published; 101 pages with exercises; $14.99 e-book)

It’s no secret that I am not among the norm as someone who is the primary caregiver for his family.  In fact, 73% of caregivers are women, the average age of which is 46 years.

Many books on caregiving have been released over the years.  On the surface, Ellen Besso’s book, “The Caregiver in MidLife” may appear like that of a traditional caregiver book.  In fact there are some things in common: personal stories, self-cleansing and strong bonds between the writer and reader that “we’re in it together.”

By that is where the similarities end.  You see, Ellen Besso is a life coach.  And the words “victim” and “cannot” are not words commonly used by coaches – especially life coaches.  It’s here where Besso’s book creates separation and a credibility that cannot be denied.

Besso takes a unique angle in discussing the expectations, emotions and transformations Baby Boomer women face in their role as a family caregiver.  Besso argues that women are hardwired to be caregviers and details fascinating conflicts between the demands of caregiving and life realities such as hormonal changes, motherly instincts and the pressures to “finally do something” with one’s life.

“The Caregiver in MidLife” teaches you how to regain the life you put on hold, and how do it in a way that is comfortable, empowering and respected by the loved one to which you provide care.

Chapter 4 addressed a topic I’ve not thought of formally, but one that is real.  The chapter focuses on role changes as women move through life.   Besso argues that as women grow, they separate from their parents and learn to better create boundaries between the role of mother/father and daughter.  As a caregiver, the role of daughter and caregiver can sometimes be in conflict.

Besso also shares a very interesting theory that some sibling caregiver rivalries may be a subconscious way of trying to be the “favorite” in the eyes of the parent.  While that is likely not the case in our family, I can see where lingering feelings from childhood could manifest in this fashion.

Besso’s coaching skill comes through more subtly at the beginning of the book.  But it takes a far stronger and more inspiring tone as the book progresses.  I found myself excited in a Tony Robbins sort of way to take control of my situation, draw boundaries and regain control of the parts of my life that had been neglected.

But one area that left me yearning and somewhat confused was in Chapter 7.  In this chapter, Besso describes her experience moving her mother to an assisted living community.  Whereas Besso assumed total control of her circumstances earlier in the book, her almost fight-free acceptance of her mother’s care being under someone else’s control seemed to contradict the books premise.  I was expecting an equal if not more determine tone from Besso as it is such a transformative transition for any family.

“The Caregiver in MidLife” also includes a book of exercises addressing time management, personal feeling and attitudes and support networks (to name a few).  Kudos to Besso for including these exercises!  I am huge fan of them because they personalize lessons learned in the book and enable the reader to move from hypothetical to practical at their own pace.  There is a reflective power of workbooks enabled when you can review your thoughts and progress from time to time.

Overall, I was very happy to read the book and thought Besso did a good job of mixing the encouragement of a coach with the reality that we face as caregivers.  At 101 pages, it is a quick read that will leave you feeling upbeat and better prepared to address your own life.

“The Caregiver in MidLife” is available at www.ellenbesso.com.