Kathleen's Story: Embracing life after a dementia diagnosis

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In the Comfort Life Spotlight

There are some moments that can instantly change the course of your life. For Kathleen, this happened on an ordinary bus ride on her way home. “All of a sudden, I didn’t know where I was. I got off the bus, thinking I would recognize something, anything, but I didn’t. There was only confusion. I started to cry.”

The feeling of panic set in, so Kathleen called her husband Rob, now her primary care partner. “He said, ‘Do you recognize the McDonald’s near our house? Do you know how to get home?’ I saw it, but I didn’t know how to get home. That’s when I realized there was a problem.”

Imagine those three haunting words: “You have dementia.” Kathleen was diagnosed with early-onset and vascular dementia at only 54 years old, and her life was changed forever.  

Traveling and exploring the world with her husband Rob used to be one of the great things in her life that brought joy and happiness. 

“I used to be quite the traveler,” she said, “at least… I was.” Living with early-onset dementia has made travelling, a favourite activity with her husband, extremely challenging.  “I’ve realized I can’t do it anymore. That really annoys me, but it’s just too hard. That part of my life is over.”

The weight of a new dementia diagnosis is suffocating, especially without a social support system in place.  “For about the first two weeks,” Kathleen said, “I didn’t want to get out of bed. I just wanted to give up and die.”

How Kathleen got her optimism back

But with the help of social recreation programs at The Alzheimer Society, things gradually got better.  The programs she now regularly participates in allow her the chance to get active in the comfort of her own home, meet new people in-person, be social, and just laugh. 

“The people I have met at these programs have become like a family,” Kathleen says. “They’re wonderful people … I felt so alone, but now I can laugh, exercise, and engage with others who truly matter… It’s fantastic.” 

Kathleen’s optimism is a reminder that even in the face of adversity–like a dementia diagnosis– life holds moments of joy. “Just continue,” she says. “Carry on. Dementia does not mean your life is over. To the contrary, it’s very much alive.”

The Alzheimer Society asked Kathleen if she could have a superpower, what would it be? Her answer:  “[To] help people living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.” 

This World Alzheimer’s Month, you can help make Kathleen’s dream a reality. When you become a monthly donor, your gift will be MATCHED for an entire year, thanks to the Catherine Booth & Michael Kirk Social Recreation Fund! As well, throughout September, all monthly gifts will be DOUBLED in support of social recreation programs at the Alzheimer Society. 

By supporting social recreation programs, you provide those in need of creative outlets those moments of laughter, joy, and connection with others. Your gift will ensure that no one faces dementia alone and will provide vital support to people like Kathleen and their families. 

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