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    Learning How to Cope with Dementia

    In her youth, my mom was tall, strong and beautiful. In my imagination, she always remained this way, but in reality, she was 80, frail, weak and had advanced dementia.

    When my dad passed away, my mom was left to live alone in the family home, which she refused to leave despite its constant need for repairs. Living in separate states meant I could only visit a handful of times each year at most, so I was relieved when my oldest brother moved back home to take care of her.

    My brother did the best he could, but no one knew that the two of them were both living off her social security check — or that he was battling an illness of his own. In trying to meet her wishes, my brother was forced to make impossible decisions. In his mind, his place as the eldest child meant he was solely responsible for her care and couldn’t ask for help.

    I later learned that as our mother’s dementia worsened, my brother would lock her in her home at night to prevent her from wondering outside alone. He’d return the next morning with the day’s ration of food.

    One day, I received a call from a family friend after my mother had called her complaining of hunger. I asked her to call the police and I immediately got in my car and drove nine hours to her home. It transpired that my brother had passed away suddenly, leaving my mom alone for more than a week with no food or water, and she was in a state of increasing confusion and panic. She had somehow remembered my family friend’s phone number and made the call.

    This turned out to be a life-saving moment. She was hungry and tired, but alive. With treatment her condition quickly improved.

    She couldn’t have gotten better without the numerous senior services that supported her, not to mention the wonderful staff who dedicate their lives to senior care. With their help, I cared for my mom for five years.

    With a growing elder population in America, senior services become more vital every day and I’m proud to be a part of this network.

    Eventually, my mom fell asleep one last time in my arms. Following her passing, now it’s my turn to continue providing support for others.

    -Joy Moore, On Lok’s Chief Human Resources Officer