Photograph by: Frederik Larsson
How did you first learn about the Neurological Foundation?
“I first contacted the Neurological Foundation about five years ago when my mother and I were considering donating her brain to neurological research. Unfortunately, because she lived in Alexandra, it couldn’t be accepted as it would deteriorate too much with a three-hour car trip to Dunedin Hospital. From that moment onwards however, we started following the work of the Foundation.”
What made you want to leave a gift in your Will to the Neurological Foundation?
“I would do anything at all possible to prevent anyone else going through the living hell that I went through watching my mother slowly die. More and more people are suffering with dementia but it’s not only the person affected with the disease, it affects the entire family and those close to the person.
I want to make a significant difference in the research that goes on and this gift will enable these very clever researchers to be able to do that.”
Can you tell us more about your mother’s battle with dementia?
“My mother had dementia for nine years and I was with her throughout the whole ordeal. She lived in a nursing home in Alexandra and had gone in for other reasons prior to the dementia which, as it turned out, was a fortunate move. Dementia beds are becoming very rare to find. So, when the dementia developed, not a lot changed for her. This was indeed a blessing.
Mum turned from a very intelligent, quick, witty woman with an enormous sense of humour and personality to match, to a sad, empty shell of a woman. It was like someone else had invaded my mother’s body. She had always faced challenges head on throughout her life but this one was one neither of us could overcome. It took her life in the end and as I sat with her as she took her last breath, it took a part of me too. Dementia steals lives without mercy and cares not about the devastation it leaves in its wake.
My mother’s dementia had, and still has, a significant effect on me. You simply can’t go through something like this and come out of it the same as you were before. I took a course through a university so I would know what was coming as the disease progressed. I will say however, although I knew it would happen, nothing can prepare you for your mother not knowing who you are. It absolutely ripped me apart to hear her say “who are you” followed by “go away”.”
Do you have any words of wisdom who those who might be going through what you and your mother went through?
“Don’t challenge your loved one or correct them, it just makes them feel they have done wrong and in turn, makes them more frustrated with themselves. Cherish every moment, even in the hard times, and when they really hurt you, or say nasty things, just remember that it’s the dementia talking, not your loved one.”
Thank you to Kathryn for taking time to share with us her and her mother’s story. These stories, and legacies of hope that are left to us, make what we do here mean more than what can ever be described. Thank you also to our supporters for continuing to fund neurological research, for continuing to help uncover new treatments, prevention methods and hopefully one day, cures, for these disorders that affect so many of us.