Jane Kennedy is on a mission to tell her story and the story of her mom, Eileen Howatt, to as many people as she can.
“I talk about my mom’s illness to whomever will listen,” says the area resident, who is the primary caregiver of her mom. “I have been telling my story so others can feel that they are not alone. Telling my story also helps me make sense of it all. It helps me understand where my mom is with the disease.”
In 2016, Eileen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which affects all aspects of the person’s life including how they think, feel and act. Eileen, who once loved to host dinner parties, now has difficulty carrying on conversations as she can’t find the words and gets angry and frustrated at herself and at her daughter. Jane says the disease brings out a side of her mom she has never seen before.
Alzheimer’s disease destroys brain cells, causing thinking ability and memory to deteriorate. While the disease will ultimately kill the person living with it, each person’s journey throughout the illness is different – just like stories of lives lived before the diagnosis.
January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. The goal is to raise awareness about the disease that impacts more than 15,000 York Region residents and their families by sharing one story at a time.
Part of the goal of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month is to change the stigma associated with a dementia diagnosis. Many people still are afraid to admit they have the disease in fear of the response they will get from people, often delaying getting a diagnosis. While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are treatments that help the symptoms. York also has the only long-care facility dealing exclusively with people with dementia including Alzheimers in rural Stouffville at the Bloomington Cove Care Community.
You can learn more at the Alzheimer Society of York Region, alzheimer.ca/en/york/About-dementia/Alzheimer-s-disease.