Dementia’s early symptoms are subtle and ambiguous, and they may not be noticeable right away. Having a loved one experience the symptoms of dementia, both with and without a diagnosis, can be confusing and frustrating for family members. We spoke to Mrs Stroud, whose mother is a resident at Livewell Estates. She chatted to us about her experience of her mom being diagnosed with dementia and the psychological impact it has had on her, the daughter.
How did you feel when you discovered your mother was diagnosed with dementia?
It’s difficult to pinpoint how I felt when I realized my mom had dementia. I say this because her personality had changed radically. She had always been someone who would do anything for her 7 children. She had suddenly become nasty and cruel. Her forgetfulness had been coming on for years, but we assumed this was part of getting older. I think that when the penny dropped that what we were dealing with was dementia, there might have been a sense of relief, as this explained mom’s behaviour, and this then set in motion more grace from my side to not confront issues with her.
The mother-daughter bond is a unique one. Did the diagnosis impact your relationship with your mum?
My relationship is naturally wholly different now. I have become the parent and mom of the ” child with special needs”. I naturally don’t show her less respect, love or care. Mostly I need to remind myself that she is still my mother and I am her daughter, even though the roles have changed.
How has this changed your life?
I know that sometimes these conditions are hereditary, so I have prioritised not drinking excessive alcohol as my mom did. I eat healthily but probably don’t exercise enough.
What are some of the lessons your mother’s journey has taught you?
Living with dementia is expensive. It’s not living as we know it; it’s merely existing. Even though I say the above, a person with dementia is still someone with feelings. They are still people who need to be treated with love, and their dignity needs to be maintained.
If there is anything you could tell your mum (before she was diagnosed with dementia), what would it be?
I think it would be to tell her that I don’t hold our circumstances as children against her. Our growing up in an orphanage was beyond her control. It was not her fault but my father’s. I love her dearly despite what happened to us.
Do you have any advice for families going through something similar?
My advice would be: remember it may look like ” nobody is home”, but somewhere deep inside that body is the person who loved and cared for you when you were a child. Make a point of visiting your loved one, and remember to ” fill their emotional tank ” with love and kindness. Treat your loved one with the same dignity you would like to be treated if you were in the same situation.