Singer-songwriter Jann Arden took to social media to share a snapshot of her relationship with her mother — a woman who she said can look at her with startling hatred one minute and then suddenly go back to being herself, due to Alzheimer’s disease.
In a Facebook status posted Monday afternoon that’s since been shared more than 6,800 times with 31,000 likes and over 3,500 comments, Arden wrote about how her mother’s personality is changing.
“She told me the other night that she was going to sue me when ‘this was all over’ … Lord have mercy. She is getting really paranoid and really impatient and just thinks every one and their cat is out to get her,” Arden wrote. “The other night she walked over here with my grandmother’s old mink coat and said that ‘those women were trying to steal it…’ She wanted me to hide it in the basement.”
Arden said she’s saddened by the changes, and grateful for the help of a companion care worker who gives her mother space.
“She is constantly on the move. She never stops. She folds and walks and putters and moves objects and sits up and looks through the trees for imaginary people.”
Arden said the hardest part is her mother is often mad at her, looking at her with “such hatred that it takes my breath away.”
“It’s such a contrast from one minute to the next and it teaches me constantly. It makes me stronger and more humble and more empathic (sic) and caring and kind,” she wrote.
“It’s just life being life and you’ve gotta embrace it all with your heart pounding away on your sleeve and a smile on your face … and don’t forget to cry, cause that’ll get you through anything.
“My mom says it’s God’s lubricant to get you through the tight spots. Now that’s a good one.”
The response on social media was overwhelmingly positive, with many others sharing their emotional stories of what it’s like to deal with Alzheimer’s disease.
Facebook user Karen Smith Gray wrote she’s worked in a nursing home for almost 26 years — 10 of which were spent in the Alzheimer’s unit — and offered advice.
“Remember to go with your mom into her journey. If she remembers you as a little girl playing with Barbie dolls break out the dolls and start playing,” she wrote. “Go softly with her and gently guide her so she won’t do any harm to herself. You are in my prayers.”
Another woman shared a poem she wrote for her mom who lived with the disease for 20 years, and many others provided insight into how they dealt with the effects.
“When my dad was at the end of his battle with Alzheimer’s I did this,” wrote Wendy Rose.
“Above his bed I posted a sign that said my name is William. I was married to Audrey for 52 years I have 5 children. I wrote children’s books. I was a school teacher. I served in the Dutch marines etc. This gave the nurses an understanding of how awesome my dad was. They could ask him about all kinds of things from his past. It made him more than just a patient. It gave him dignity.”
The Alzheimer Society of Calgary says there are more than 13,000 people in Calgary and surrounding area living with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias. More than 747,000 Canadians were living with dementia according to 2011 data.
“By 2030, this number is expected to double to 1.4 million, and by 2050, it is expected to increase to 2.8 million,” the society said. Data suggests for each person diagnosed, another 10 to 12 people are directly impacted.
The top-rated comment replying to Arden’s post was from the Facebook account of Canadian venture capitalist Arlene Dickinson, of Dragon’s Den fame, who wrote:
“You help so many by sharing so candidly Jann Arden. You now are a good mother. Our roles reverse and it’s our turn to be the parents to parents who need us.”
Alzheimer Society of Calgary support team member Cindy Bond said Arden’s post has opened up a conversation for many people to talk about their journey with dementia.
“What I’ve witnessed here, working at the Alzheimer’s Society, is frustration—a lot of grief…what we call ambiguous grief. There’s no ceremony to mark the grief, it’s a day-to-day loss, or week to week, so it’s very, very difficult.
“The grief, the anger, the frustration and what’s very common—Jann is kind of busting those barriers—is the isolation piece that families face.”