Top News

Dementia steals Truro woman’s mother from her

Dorothy and Michelle McCann in 2000.
Dorothy and Michelle McCann in 2000.

TRURO, N.S. – For Michelle McCann, losing someone who is physically still in front of her is one of the most difficult things in life.

Her mother, Dorothy, was diagnosed with dementia seven years ago.

“One of the worst times was when she looked at me and asked where Michelle was,” she said. “It was a heartbreak moment.”

Ninety per cent of the time the 85-year-old doesn’t recognize her daughter when she visits.

While still living at home in Valley, with her husband, Dorothy tried to hide what was happening. She wouldn’t accept help and took many comments as accusations. If someone told her she’d dropped a tissue she would snap, saying she hadn’t.

One Christmas she forgot how to cook a turkey and she would hide things because she was afraid someone would steal them. She started packing ‘to go home’ when she was in the house she had been living in for years. One cold day she headed out in lightweight clothing, looking for her husband who was asleep on the couch.

“She was like a skipping record, bouncing between times,” said Michelle.

Dorothy once agreed, after a salesman’s visit, to have an alarm system installed. Her family didn’t know until people showed up to install it and McCann had to battle the company to have it removed.

“I always had a great relationship with my mother but we’re both very stubborn and telling her what to do, even in a sneaky way, didn’t work,” said Michelle. “Because Dad had physical challenges we brought VON in under the guise of helping him.

Dorothy would get up at night and, thinking the mailbox was a woman standing outside, go out to see what was going on. Her husband was exhausted and she was accepted at the nursing home in Pugwash as an emergency case. After a short time she was relocated to Cedarstone.

Michelle’s father died a little more than two years ago so she now, being an only child, visits her mother on her own.

“Although I can’t understand what she’s saying now, I can sometimes tell by her tone that she’s still being sarcastic,” she said. “She’s still in there; I just don’t get as many peeks at her.”

Dorothy, who played the piano, enjoys musical programs at the centre but no longer has the interested in clothing she once had.

“She loved clothes and I cried when I had to buy her polyester elastic-waist pants,” said Michelle.

“There are days I plain out miss my mom. I bought a house this year and she would have been all over that. I want to be able to share that with her and make her proud.

“It’s a mean disease. You have somebody in front of you but they’re not there any more.”

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia

There is help for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, and for their family members.

Knowing the warning signs is important in ensuring people get help as soon as possible.

1. Memory loss affecting day-to-day abilities

2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks

3. Problems with language

4. Disorientation in time and space

5. Impaired judgment

6. Problems with abstract thinking

7. Misplacing things

8. Changes in mood and behaviour

9. Changes in personality

10. Losing interest in friends, family and favourite activities

Other conditions could be causing these signs so it’s important to see a doctor. If diagnosed with dementia there are things that can be done to ensure the best quality of life. For more information visit http://www.alzheimer.ca/en or http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/ns .

Her mother, Dorothy, was diagnosed with dementia seven years ago.

“One of the worst times was when she looked at me and asked where Michelle was,” she said. “It was a heartbreak moment.”

Ninety per cent of the time the 85-year-old doesn’t recognize her daughter when she visits.

While still living at home in Valley, with her husband, Dorothy tried to hide what was happening. She wouldn’t accept help and took many comments as accusations. If someone told her she’d dropped a tissue she would snap, saying she hadn’t.

One Christmas she forgot how to cook a turkey and she would hide things because she was afraid someone would steal them. She started packing ‘to go home’ when she was in the house she had been living in for years. One cold day she headed out in lightweight clothing, looking for her husband who was asleep on the couch.

“She was like a skipping record, bouncing between times,” said Michelle.

Dorothy once agreed, after a salesman’s visit, to have an alarm system installed. Her family didn’t know until people showed up to install it and McCann had to battle the company to have it removed.

“I always had a great relationship with my mother but we’re both very stubborn and telling her what to do, even in a sneaky way, didn’t work,” said Michelle. “Because Dad had physical challenges we brought VON in under the guise of helping him.

Dorothy would get up at night and, thinking the mailbox was a woman standing outside, go out to see what was going on. Her husband was exhausted and she was accepted at the nursing home in Pugwash as an emergency case. After a short time she was relocated to Cedarstone.

Michelle’s father died a little more than two years ago so she now, being an only child, visits her mother on her own.

“Although I can’t understand what she’s saying now, I can sometimes tell by her tone that she’s still being sarcastic,” she said. “She’s still in there; I just don’t get as many peeks at her.”

Dorothy, who played the piano, enjoys musical programs at the centre but no longer has the interested in clothing she once had.

“She loved clothes and I cried when I had to buy her polyester elastic-waist pants,” said Michelle.

“There are days I plain out miss my mom. I bought a house this year and she would have been all over that. I want to be able to share that with her and make her proud.

“It’s a mean disease. You have somebody in front of you but they’re not there any more.”

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia

There is help for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, and for their family members.

Knowing the warning signs is important in ensuring people get help as soon as possible.

1. Memory loss affecting day-to-day abilities

2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks

3. Problems with language

4. Disorientation in time and space

5. Impaired judgment

6. Problems with abstract thinking

7. Misplacing things

8. Changes in mood and behaviour

9. Changes in personality

10. Losing interest in friends, family and favourite activities

Other conditions could be causing these signs so it’s important to see a doctor. If diagnosed with dementia there are things that can be done to ensure the best quality of life. For more information visit http://www.alzheimer.ca/en or http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/ns .

Recent Stories