When my mother was diagnosed with dementia in 2004, I was woefully unprepared. I thought dementia was a gentle disease, a gradual memory loss and gentle fading away. My mother’s anger and paranoia took me by surprise. I was bewildered and ashamed when her hostility became directed almost exclusively towards me. Intellectually I knew that her disease was to blame but emotionally I found it very difficult to accept.
Initially, I thought that I could change her attitude. I tried to cajole her into a better mood or use logic to explain why her accusations didn’t make sense. Sometimes my efforts erupted into arguments that left both of us in tears and made me wonder if I really was the terrible daughter my mother described.
It wasn’t until after she passed away that I began to talk about my mother’s battle with dementia and the impact her illness had on our relationship. Sharing that information gave me a huge sense of relief. I realized that I had isolated myself from people who could have provided me with much needed support and I wished that I had been open about my experience much sooner.
I hope that telling my story now will help raise awareness about dementia and reduce some of the stigma that still surrounds the disease.
Thank you to the Alzheimer Society of Ontario for encouraging me to blog about my experience. Many of the posts that follow first appear on their blog.