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Column: ‘My mother is not a person dying from Alzheimer’s – she is a hero living with it’

Whenever I feel that caring for my mother is getting the better of me, I think back on the all amazing memories I have with this inspiring and courageous woman.

Sean Donal O Shea

MY NAME IS Sean Donal O Shea and I’m 32 years of age. My mother Debby was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease eight years ago; she was only 50 years of age then. Myself, my father and my brother care for my mother now with the help of carers and our family, without whom we would not be able to do what we do. We will be forever grateful to the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland, the Carers Association and the Home Help services that have been so amazing to all of us.

Mom is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s and this is possibly the part of the disease that I am struggling with the most. I feel selfish when I say this, but I find it the hardest stage now because I am getting very little back from mom. She can no longer walk and her speech has disappeared so we can no longer have the long personal chats that I had grown so used of. However, my mom is a strong and determined woman and she still gives me her beautiful smile at times, a smile that money could never buy.

Daily life with mom consists of aiding her in every aspect of her life, from getting up in the morning, personal care, feeding, medication and bedtime. It can be quite challenging at times, however when I feel that it may be getting the better of me, I think back on the amazing memories that mom and I have shared since her diagnosis. I guess I am like her in that regard, taking the positives out of every situation.

She helped me make priceless memories

While it would have been very easy to feel self-pity and let this awful disease take over, it was through mom’s encouragement and example that I got the courage to obtain a qualification in social care. She was certainly my inspiration and driving force as I did my course and she (along with my girlfriend and family) were the reason that I obtained a first class honours degree in Applied Social Studies in Social Care this year.

I mentioned previously the memories that me and mom have shared. We walked the beach every day, drove in the car singing and laughing and danced around the house until we nearly fell from exhaustion. Of all these memories that we have shared, the one that fills me with the most pride is when I no longer felt too shy, or ‘manly’, to tell her that I love her. It is something that I tell her every day now and up until recently she would also say it back to me. Again, that is one aspect of our life that Alzheimer’s disease has robbed us of. However, once again I take moms’ position on this and turn my back on the negatives and smile at the positives.

It was only recently that I realised what this inspiring, courageous hero that I am proud to call my mother did for me. She helped me make these priceless memories as a way of helping me through the hard times, enabling me to once again turn my back on the negative side to this illness.

I still get upset when I know that mom may not see me get married or be able to see her grandchildren grow up. But I will always have those memories and I now see life through her eyes as being a person that is not dying from Alzheimer’s – rather, she is a hero living with it.

Share a memory and celebrate a life. Share a memory of the person you cherish the most by visiting www.memoryribbon.ie and donating €5 to the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. Every donation goes directly to funding vital services in local communities around Ireland.

Sean Donal O Shea lives in Waterville, Co Kerry with his father, Sean, and his mother, Debby. Sean Donal cares for his mother who has Alzheimer’s and says that many positives have come out of the situation.

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Sean Donal O Shea

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