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Son videos the first time his mom with dementia doesn’t know who he is
Prepare for your heart to fall on the floor.
One in three seniors will die with dementia; by 2050, one person will develop Alzheimer’s every 33 seconds in the U.S.
When dementia hits a loved one, especially a parent, every new stage brings on a new wave of sadness, frustration, and loss. You think you’ve accepted that this person will no longer be the one you always knew, and you logically understand that things will only progressively get worse, but heartache doesn’t know logic. So we cope the best we can.
Two weeks ago, Joe Daley started a series on YouTube tracking the dementia of his mother, Molly. These videos are his way of muddling through the process and hoping others in similar circumstances will feel less alone.
Yesterday, he posted a video of what he said was his most heartbreaking moment to date: The first time his mom forgot who he was.
In the episode, Daley takes Molly to Tim Horton’s and asks her if she knows who his mother is. Though she is obviously comfortable with him, sitting across from him spooning her milkshake, she looks confused and asks him to repeat himself.
“I can’t even think,” she says, shaking her head until finally admitting that she doesn’t understand their relationship.
Daley continues to ask her, in different ways, if she knows who he is.
“I think it’s my brain,” she says. “It makes me sick to my stomach.”
After they address her dementia, she tells him, “You look sad.”
“No,” he answers, caught off-guard. “I’m not sad. I just yawned.”
Daley later says in the comments, “I know I was asking a lot of questions, but I was in a panic thinking she didn’t know who I was. This was the first time I realized she might not know who I am. All I wanted her to say was she knew I was her son, but those words never came out.”
Less than a day after he posted the video, more than 150,000 people have viewed it, and the responses resoundingly supportive.
“She knows you. She does. Just on a different level,” one commenter told him. “She’s responding to you like a son when she reaches out and rubs your arm. When she laughingly calls you on your bullshit when you say you’re not crying. That is totally a mother’s knowing look.”
Jessica Machado is the IRL editor of the Daily Dot. Previously, she was an associate editor at Rolling Stone. Her work has been published in the Washington Post, Elle, Vice, Salon, BuzzFeed, Guernica, Bitch, Bust, the Cut, the Awl, the Toast, among others.