Sandy Benson Shares Her Story of Caring for Both Parents with Dementia

By S. G. (Sandy) Benson

Most people, at some point in their lives, confront issues with aging parents. Whether the problems are medical, financial, logistical, emotional, or some combination of these, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless.

When my journey through parental dementia began, I had no idea what lay ahead. At first, I didn’t even recognize that Mom had an illness; I thought she was just being mean. Once I found myself up to my neck in a nightmare, I spent every waking moment coping, reacting, and scrambling. I was simply too exhausted to do more than try to put out each fire as it flared.

Not wanting to be seen as a complainer, I didn’t tell many people about our family’s situation. Some of those to whom I did mention it told me to chill out and just ignore it. I wondered if they might react differently had they experienced these things personally. It was then that I became aware of the stigma associated with mental health issues in general, particularly those related to aging. I felt utterly alone.

I didn’t believe, then, that I knew anyone else who had dealt with anything remotely like this. I later found out that I did indeed know several people who had struggled with parental care, but they had not said anything about it, possibly because they felt it was too personal to share or, like me, they were too busy trying to hold things together.

As the drama unfolded, I reached out for advice many times, but I always seemed to hit a brick wall. I didn’t know where to look or whom to ask. At least a couple of times during the crisis, when something really crazy happened, I thought the whole experience might someday make a fascinating story. But would anyone even be interested in it? Would it be too personal to share? Would readers find it offensive or demeaning to my mother?

Later, when I had a chance to come up for air and it was really too late to be helpful, I found several books, articles, and websites that contained information about dementia, its associated behaviors, and care suggestions for patients. What I didn’t find were stories of how families coped with it. By sharing my experience, as well as some helpful references, I hoped to help fill that gap.

My Mother's Keeper by S. G. BensonMy Mother’s Keeper: One Family’s Journey Through Dementia tells my family’s story of rapidly-accelerating personality changes, aggression, violence, fear, mistakes, hopelessness, helplessness, and eventual closure. Yes, it is painfully personal. But it became clear to me that not sharing the story would not do anything to help others understand the scope of the issue. I believe that if we don’t talk about it, dementia and its effects on families will continue to be swept under the rug.

This book describes just one of countless family situations, all of which are different but share the commonality of dementia and eldercare. I hope it will help readers who find themselves embarking on a similar journey understand that they are not alone.

Purchase My Mother’s Keeper: One Family’s Journey Through Dementia on Amazon now

About the Author

S. G. Benson, author of My Mother’s Keeper: One Family’s Journey Through Dementia S. G. (Sandy) Benson writes from her home in the mountains of western North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Barry, and two bossy dachshunds. A forester by training, she worked in the woods most of her life. Along the way, she published a real estate magazine and wrote many outdoors articles for newspapers and magazines. My Mother’s Keeper: One Family’s Journey Through Dementia is her first book. Eldercare was not even on her radar when the events described in this story began to unfold—it became an extraordinary learning experience. She says if this book helps even one person navigate the muddy waters of dementia, she’ll consider it a success.

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