My mother’s was a story that needed to be told. She was a kind, brilliant and talented woman all of my life until dementia took hold distorting her persona and leaving an agitated, bewildered and compromised person in its wake.
In what would be her final months, as my mother continued her rapid descent into Alzheimer’s clutches, her once strong voice faded away. Our quiet visits together afforded me the opportunity to reflect on the vivacious life that defined her. I was determined to remember her as the strong, courageous and gifted lady who was my mom.I Will Never Forget was written in tribute not only to my mother but to everyone going through this struggle. Too many sons and daughters have witnessed their parents’ very essence evaporate as their memories are chipped and chiseled away. My mother’s story is everyone’s story. I simply chose to put in black and white the colorful stories of her life for all to remember.
I was not a full-time caregiver for my mother. She had made it crystal clear that she never wanted to live with her “kids” if she could no longer care for herself, even when her “kids” were whittled down to one - just me - after the premature deaths of both of my brothers.
Regardless of whether you’re caring for a loved one at home or allocating daily care to an assisted living facility, Alzheimer’s leaves a permanent mark on everyone. You are forever changed, no matter how you experience the journey.
I believe I Will Never Forget resonates with readers, caregivers and families in part because I admit my denial, ignorance and transparency reveal my unwitting mistakes. I saw my mom as the glass half-full, with intermittent episodes of puzzling remarks and goofy behaviors, when in fact she was more the glass half-empty, with occasional bright moments.
Caring for someone with dementia is a unique undertaking compared with other conditions. They all demand patience and special training, but none requires the exhaustive and creative redirection that Alzheimer’s does.
For someone with dementia, there is no expectation that the person will improve. Alzheimer’s is a progressive, fatal neurological disease with no cure.
There is no expectation of consistency. Awareness in people with dementia fluctuates from one moment to the next. Bright rays of lucidity are peppered amidst increasingly longer periods of distorted judgement, outbursts, memory loss and more.
I offer Community and Professionally Based Presentations. At one seminar a few years ago, an older gentleman, tears welling in his eyes, expressed guilt for having just moved his wife into a memory care facility. He was questioning his decision and felt like “a failure” for needing to relinquish to others what he perceived as his “job”.
My reply: “Whatever decision you make out of genuine love in behalf of someone else is the right decision.”
About the Author
Elaine Pereira earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Occupational Therapy and Master of Arts from Wayne State University. Most of her professional career as an OT was with special needs children. She also worked in Home Health Care, hospitals and private practice. In addition to actually living the incredible drama and the sometimes humorous journey with her mother through dementia, Elaine holds certificates as a Certified Dementia Practitioner and Caregiver.
Today Elaine works extensively to advance Alzheimer’s awareness through her Award Winning/Best Selling memoir I Will Never Forget, community and professional presentations and pertinent articles.
A native of Kalamazoo, Elaine Pereira and her husband Joseph live in South Eastern Michigan with their two big dogs and two new cats. Together they have five adult children and five young, adorable grandchildren.
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