Follow us, as Elizabeth Murray tells the moving story of her mother’s battle with dementia. In this blog series, Murray explores every part of the experience of caring for someone with dementia, sharing her memories and insights from it all. Her words serve as a great reminder of the many ways dementia affects our lives, and the lives of our loved ones.”
When I was growing up, my mother’s raisin cookies were a family favourite and making them was a regular Saturday afternoon mother-daughter event.
Instead of adding whole raisins to the butterscotch-flavoured dough, my mother used an old-fashioned meat grinder to mince the fruit. I would turn the handle on the grinder as she fed raisins into the mouth of the machine. We would take turns stirring the thick batter and sing Patty cake, patty cake, baker’s man, as we patted the dough into a log. When the cookies were in the oven, we would sit at the kitchen table and sip milky tea while we waited for the timer to chime.
Shortly before my mother was diagnosed with dementia, I asked her for the cookie recipe. Her forehead wrinkled.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Elizabeth,” my mother snapped when I described the cookies, and how we used to make them, for the third time.
I was surprised and hurt that my mother didn’t have any recollection of the special times we had shared baking raisin cookies. Although I dismissed her lapse of memory as “nothing to worry about”, the incident lingered at the back of my mind.
Sometime later, my mother’s geriatric clinician explained that forgetting the details of a significant event is part of the normal aging process, but forgetting the event ever happened is likely a symptom of something more serious. I finally realized that my mother’s failure to remember our baking sessions was a symptom of her disease and not a sign that she hadn’t enjoyed our time together.
My mother’s loss of memory often left me confused and frustrated. Looking back on my experience, I know that I would have been better equipped to deal with her symptoms if I had been familiar with the differences between age-associated memory impairment and dementia.
Not every memory lapse is a cause for concern but if you have questions about a loved one’s memory, you should consult your local Alzheimer Society for more information about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Retired lawyer and the author of Holding on to Mamie: My Mother, Dementia and Me.
For more information about Elizabeth and her story visit www.holdingontomamie.ca.