By Tamie Beitinger
Advertising Sales Consultant
I started to notice my mother changing around two years ago.
They were small things – she’d forgotten the time or what day we had plans to go out.
It wasn’t until we really started looking into her life that we realized how bad it was getting. She was forgetting to pay her bills, couldn’t remember to clean out the fridge, and maybe most frightening of all, she couldn’t keep track of her destination while she was driving.
Four months ago, we got the official diagnosis.
My mother has dementia.
It’s been a hard change on all of our lives, and probably the hardest on her.
Ever since my father died in ‘86, she lived on her own and was an extremely independent woman, and I know she gets frustrated when she realizes she is no longer capable of doing the tasks she used to perform with ease even just a few months ago.
Since the diagnosis, we moved my mother in with my sister to keep an eye on her. That’s what hits me the hardest, is that she is no longer the independent woman she once was.
In order to learn more about my mother’s illness, I decided to take a small walk in her shoes by taking a Virtual Dementia Tour at Enumclaw Expressions.
I won’t give the tour away, and I recommend not looking up what the tour is and simply sign up for one if you get the chance, especially if someone you love has dementia.
What I can tell you is the tour really does put you in a dementia patient’s shoes, even if just for a little bit.
I found myself exhibiting the same behavior my mother does, but I didn’t notice it at the time. It was only after the tour during the debrief that I was told what I was doing.
First, I couldn’t stay on task. I’d start to do something, and my mind would wander off and I’d suddenly find myself doing something totally different, or aimlessly wandering around.
I became very sensitive to sound, also like my mother. Loud noises, like a door slamming or a siren, or especially my dog running through the house will startle my mother, and I found I reacted the same way during the tour.
And just like her, I became frustrated when I couldn’t perform simple tasks that I know I could do normally.
Dementia affects more than 47.5 million people around the world who have dementia. One in three seniors die with some form of dementia, and it’s the only cause of death in the Top 10 in America that can’t be cured, or even prevented.
Since taking the tour, I’ve re-energized my resolve to continue giving my mother the best care I can give her. It seems to help her when she does crossword puzzles to keep her mind busy (she’s a nut about those), going out to see her lunch group and seeing family often.
Positive conservations help, too. I tell her how much I love how soft her skin is, or the twinkle of life in her eyes, and she lights up again like she’s back to her old self.
Although it is difficult, I’m making sure I am patient through her constant questions and confused expressions. I now have a small idea of what it is like living with dementia, and although it may be difficult for caretakers, the frustration patients feel is ten times worse.
I can tell you, I’m glad I was able to walk away from this eye-opening experience with a better understanding of dementia.
I just wish my mother could walk away from it, too.