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Lois Kemp shares memories of her late mother Marion DESMOND DEVOY

ALMONTE – Lois Kemp wishes she didn’t know as much as she does about Alzheimer’s disease. But she does, because her mother suffered from it, and she told a group of caregivers and support workers in Almonte last week what to expect on their own journey with the degenerative, memory-sapping ailment with their own loved one. “This is the first time I’ve done this,” said Kemp, who works at the Fairview Manor, during a presentation as part of an Alzheimer’s education series at the Mills Home Support Corporation on Feb. 4. Kemp’s mother Marion, was well known in the Almonte community, a legacy that helped Lois through her difficult time. “I find it very nice to have a lot of support within the community,” said Lois. Marion’s life had never been easy. By the age of 20, she had four children. She had cervical cancer at the age of 25, and was widowed by the age of 30. “When she was 55, she was working a couple of job,” said Lois. The signs that Marion was developing Alzheimer’s were small at first, but continued to grow and become more noticeable as time went on. “She dated a guy for a number of years and couldn’t remember his phone number,” Lois said. Marion had worked for many years at People’s Jewelers at the Bayshore Shopping Centre in Ottawa, but in time, she could not figure how to ring in a sale and she eventually had to leave her post. “There was no history in our family,” of Alzheimer’s or dementia, said Lois. “We thought that maybe she had had a stroke.” Things started to get so bad that Marion could not even use the telephone or walk in downtown Almonte, the town she was born and raised in, without getting lost. If her family took her out to a restaurant, someone would have to stand outside of the women’s restroom to escort her back to the table because she would get lost. “Because she had early onset Alzheimer’s, it seemed to progress faster,” said Lois. “It’s so heartbreaking. I always felt guilty that I wasn’t doing enough.” When her mother was 59, she was put into a care facility. “Mum had gone to school with some of the nurses,” said Lois, which was both sad and comforting. “She was aware enough to

know that she was going to be put into long-term care.” For Lois, it was like dropping her daughter off at daycare all over again. “She (Marion) was holding on to my pant leg. It took me back,” said Lois. Lois revealed that she would often feel a cycle of shame. When she was with her mother, she felt guilty that she was not at home with her daughter Stacey. When she was at home with Stacey, she worried about her mother. And when she was at work, she worried about both of them. “You need to put yourself first,” Lois said of caregivers with loved ones with Alzheimer’s. Lois also warned that, as the disease progresses, promises you once made sometimes have to be broken. Her mother had made Lois promise that she would keep her hair looking good, which she faithfully did, until one day, the disease overtook this promise. “She didn’t understand what we were doing to her,” said Lois, since the dye was hurting her hair. Lois was helped by a regular visit rotation amongst her siblings to check in on her mother, though she stressed that if she was having a really bad day, it was sometimes not best to visit her mother, because her mother would be able to sense her See HOPE, page 20


Photo by Desmond Devoy

From left, Stacey and Lois Kemp hold up a photograph of Lois’ mother, Marion, after Lois’ speech at the Mills Home Support Corporation in Almonte on Feb. 4. Marion suffered from early onset Alzheimers.

February 10 2011 Canadian Gazette

Almonte woman lays out what to expect with Alzheimer’s

Carleton Place / Almonte Canadian Gazette  

February 10, 2011

Carleton Place / Almonte Canadian Gazette  

February 10, 2011