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.”
25,000 Canadians are diagnosed with dementia each year yet families often dismiss its symptoms as part of the natural process of aging.
My mother began showing signs of dementia six years before she was diagnosed but the disease crept up on her, hiding behind normal behaviour. She had always been a little suspicious, slow to acknowledge her flaws. And gradually those traits became more pronounced.
“Why do you want to know?” she would reply to questions about where she had been or what she had been doing.
“Everybody forgets things sometimes,” was her usual response to an unusual memory lapse.
In those years, I was battling cancer. I didn’t want to contemplate the possibility that my mother might be facing her own difficult battle.
After her diagnosis, I felt overwhelmingly guilty for not recognizing her disease sooner. I remembered the times I had been impatient with my mother’s strange ideas; the hurt in her eyes when I was frustrated with her forgetfulness. I berated myself for my lack of empathy.
When my mother forgot to attend Grandparents Day at my son’s school – an annual event they both cherished – I had been furious. All I could think about were the tears that were surely rolling down my son’s cheeks when she failed to arrive. I didn’t consider how she must have felt when I pointed out her mistake.
Preoccupation with my own health was my excuse for not confronting my mother’s disease but everyone has something in their life that makes it easy to miss the signs that a loved one might have dementia.
I’ve learned to forgive myself for my sometimes-willful blindness to my mother’s symptoms but perhaps if I had been better informed about dementia some of the heartache my mother and I endured could have been avoided.
Alzheimer Societies provide valuable support to families in need but sharing our experiences with the disease can also help to raise awareness – and may make someone else’s journey a little easier. For information and resources on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, you can visit the Alzheimer Society of Ontario’s website.
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.