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BARRON: Dementia in the family difficult for everyone concerned

It hurts when I see this lack of recognition from this tender-hearted and loving woman
Robert’s column

I really miss my mother.

The beloved 92-year-old matriarch of my large family is still with us, but dementia has taken such a hold over her since she first started showing symptoms about five years ago that she has pretty much lost any sense of where she is and who is around her.

She has been living in Eden Gardens, a care home designed specifically for the needs of residents living with dementia, in Nanaimo for the past two years since it was determined that the apartment she lived in at my brother’s house for decades was no longer the best or safest place for her to be any longer as the disease began taking more and more of a toll, robbing her of her memories of a long and well-lived life and her ability to operate independently.

My mother, Gertrude Barron, has always been very fond of playing cards, and my sister and I promised her that we would visit every day to play with her when she first moved into Eden Gardens as an incentive for her to agree to the move, as she was understandably very apprehensive at the time of this big change in her life.

Two years later and we’ve kept to that promise.

I leave work every day and meet my sister, Mary Jane, at our mom’s room in Eden Gardens and break out the cards.

In the beginning, mom was still able to play the games pretty much on her own, with some help when she would have lapses in concentration, but now Mary Jane and I have to do almost all the work and thinking for her.

Sometimes, she pays attention and tries to follow and participate in the card games as best she can, but she’s increasingly disinterested and distracted as her mental functions continue to deteriorate.

She often insists that she doesn’t have time to play cards because her mother and father, both of whom left this world about 50 years ago, are coming to take her to her home in Torbay, Newfoundland, where she grew up in the early 20th Century and hasn’t seen in many decades.

She constantly stares at the door to her room expecting her mom and dad to come in at any time to collect her and take her away.

I often insist that she try to concentrate on the card game and we’ll stop playing the minute her parents arrive, but it’s disheartening when she looks at me and is not sure who I am and why I would have any opinion on her parents’ visit.

I try to remind her that I’m her youngest child of seven children and she laughs because she just can’t get her mind around the idea that this gray haired and aging fellow sitting in front of her could possibly be her child, much less her youngest of seven, when she believes she’s not much older than a youngster herself.

It hurts when I see this lack of recognition from this tender-hearted and loving woman who spent the best years of her life devoted to raising her family, and always seemed to be happy and content in that role.

It seems as if she’s being stolen from us incrementally over time, and the process is speeding up as more time goes by.

The worst of it is that she isn’t going to get any better, and I’m increasingly dreading the day when I get the call that mom is gone and there will be no more card games with her.

It will be hard to bear, and I expect I’ll feel like an orphan when that occurs, albeit a rather old one.

The only bright light to all this at this stage is Edens Garden and the incredible staff that work there.

In the two years I have been dealing with them, I’ve found the doctors, nurses and attendants there to be the most compassionate, caring and patient collection of individuals I have ever met, and their extraordinary care of my mother has made a real difference for her and her family.

Dementia is a difficult disease to deal with, not just for those experiencing it, but for those who love them.

Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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