Joanne's Story

Alberta and Northwest Territories

In this inaugural Cognitive Connections episode, we meet Joanne, a remarkable individual who shares her personal journey with dementia.

Cognitive Connections: A Journey of Empathy, Knowledge, and Hope

Welcome to Cognitive Connections, a podcast by the Alzheimer's Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories. Each episode will bring you thought-provoking discussions with experts, researchers, and people within this community. At the Alzheimer's Society, we believe in the power of human connection and aim to create a safe space where we can discuss the challenges, triumphs, and advancements in the field of dementia.

Joanne’s Journey with Dementia

In this inaugural episode, we meet Joanne, a remarkable individual who shares her personal journey with dementia. She sheds light on the difficulties, the impact on her family, and the support she received from the Alzheimer's Society.

Joanne is a mother, grandmother, and wife with a deep love for her family. She fondly remembers her parents, who emigrated from England when she was a young girl, and describes her mother as "the most beautiful person [she has] ever had the pleasure of meeting."

Over two decades ago, Joanne began noticing changes in her mother that were difficult to understand. It was a challenging time, and Joanne found herself grappling with a new reality. The person she had known and loved all her life was changing. Joanne shares: "We started seeing the signs and taking her to the doctor. So then I was lost. I didn't know what to do. This wasn't my mom. She loved me, but it just wasn't my mom. Her personality, she still loved people and she was still beautiful and kind, but it just wasn't her anymore."

Joanne and her mom
Joanne Belke and her mom

Navigating dementia is an emotional journey. Joanne's life was impacted as she witnessed her mother's transformation. There were moments of heartache, but Joanne was determined to find a way through the challenges.

Getting Support

Joanne found the Alzheimer's Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories, offering hope. Arlene Huhn, Team Manager of the North Client Services Team, was her first contact and made her feel welcome. Arlene also suggested a FirstLink meeting, which changed Joanne’s approach to dementia care. The support she received from the Society helped her navigate the complexities of dementia and find a new way to connect with her mom.

One crucial lesson Joanne learned was the importance of connecting rather than correcting. She realized that trying to correct her mom's confusion only caused frustration and distress. Instead, she learned to live in her mom's reality, meeting her where she was and embracing her unique experiences. This shift in perspective allowed Joanne to find joy in the moments they shared.

The Alzheimer's Society's support extended beyond Joanne's personal journey. Her entire family, including her brother, son, and husband, received guidance on how to cope with the challenges of dementia together. This support for care partners is crucial, as dementia affects not just the individual but their entire support network.

Ride for Mom

Joanne's dedication to making a difference led her to become involved in the Ride for Mom, an annual fundraising event to bring awareness to this cause. Together with Terry Wise, a friend who also lost his mother to Alzheimer's, they've raised over $200,000 in the past 18 years, demonstrating the power of community and the impact of collective action.

Spreading Awareness

Joanne is determined to break the silence surrounding dementia. She believes that everyone's life touches dementia in some way, somewhere. She shares her story with others, encouraging them to seek support from the Alzheimer's Society and to support one another. By sharing our experiences, we can create a more compassionate and understanding society.

Looking ahead, Joanne envisions a world where dementia is better understood, and support is readily available. She hopes for breakthroughs in medical research and increased funding for dementia programs and services. We have the power to create a more compassionate and inclusive society for individuals living with dementia and their families.

As we continue on this journey of empathy, knowledge, and hope, let us remember Joanne's words: "If you just give a little, it doesn't have to be money. It can be an hour, it can be half an hour, it can be, 'Hey, can I stamp this for you? Can I cut this up for you?' There's always something we can all do." Together, let us strive to make a difference and create a world where no one faces dementia alone.

Thank you for joining us on this episode of Cognitive Connections Conversations on Dementia. Listen to the full episode wherever you get your podcasts and on YouTube. Stay tuned for more enlightening discussions as we continue to unravel the intricacies of dementia.