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The Dementia Team

May 2, 2014

By Mary Beth Wighton
By Mary Beth Wighton, Person with Dementia
Date: Jan 27th, 2013
 

Growing up, I was an excellent athlete and was on many top-rated teams. I played basketball, volleyball and soccer. Those teams excelled from winning locally to competing at a national level. My status on the teams varied from a “bench warmer” to being captain.
Therefore, it really did not surprise me when I was diagnosed with Frontotemporal Lobe Dementia (FTD), that I wanted to be part of a team fighting for people with dementia.

After just being diagnosed in September of 2012, I was made aware of The Kenneth G. Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program (MAREP) from the University of Waterloo. After doing research on MAREP, I contacted it and a meeting time was set up to discuss possible partnership. During the first meeting with Lisa and Jessica from MAREP, one of the opportunities suggested for my consideration was to be part of Alzheimer awareness month by being a speaker at the Living Well with Dementia public lecture to be held January 21st, 2013. I jumped at the chance! For many years, I had been part of a training team for a large well-known software company. I had not been in front of a classroom for quite a while, but this sounded like fun.

As I worked on my speech, my partner Dawn was busy contacting family and friends and informing them of the upcoming event. She planned on having everyone back to the house for some lunch and to celebrate the day. Meanwhile, MAREP was very busy with communication and all of the other details necessary for such an important event. They were busy!

The big day arrived. It was a very cold but bright sunny day. My family chattered nervously as we walked into the university building. The buzz had already started. I love that energy – the feeling of nervousness, excitement, yet calmness. It brought me back to my days of playing an extremely important game of basketball. I couldn't wait to play!

At 10:00 am I was ushered into my seat to a very full room of people. As I took a few minutes to adjust to the noise and people, I realized that I was sitting beside Brenda Hounam. I could hardly believe it. Brenda was instrumental in helping create MAREP's “By Us For Us” series and many other important tools for those with dementia. She is the recent recipient of a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. She has been a partner with MAREP since 2001. I must admit I was a bit in awe.

Brenda gave me a warm welcome and told me she was looking forward to my speech.
I also noticed in the same row of seats, Carl and Anne Marie Wilson. They are spokespersons and advocates for people living with dementia. This dynamic duo have helped change and create tools with MAREP. Anne Marie would be speaking today about having a meaningful life as a family partner in care of Carl who has dementia. I was well-aware of their excellent work and reputation and was looking forward to Anne Marie's lecture. I'm sure my eyes widened on seeing them!

Just down a few seats from Carl and Anne Marie sat the first speaker, Dr. Peter J. Whitehouse. He would be discussing living well with dementia and challenging the myths. He too is well-known for his work and admired.

As I was the third and final speaker of the event, I waited for the first two speakers to give their lectures. The time went quickly by as I was engrossed in their speeches and really enjoyed Carl's contributions with Anne Marie. Before I knew it, I was standing up and walking to the podium, looking at the audience with papers in hand. I could feel the warmth and encouragement from all as I began to speak.

I had family and friends dispersed throughout the crowd cheering me on. My Girls were in the front row, proud as peacocks. I knew that it didn't matter how the speech went, this crowd would never let me fail. This proved to be true as I received a standing ovation when I finished. A standing ovation! I felt like the person who just sunk the winning shot in the last seconds of the game. People came up to congratulate me and give me a hug. We had won.

On reflection of that day, I realize that my analogy of being part of The Dementia Team works well for me as I can relate to it. The captain of the team is Brenda. It is a captain's role to help in encouraging all members and provide wisdom when things get tough. Anne Marie plays the supporter; Dr. Peter Whitehorse – the member of the medical community; MAREP – the team manager; family and friends can play many positions - Carl and I are the scorers. Our job is take the basketball and shoot it into the hoop.

Being part of any team requires each member to contribute to the teams well-being. The best teams are those that have excellent communication; unselfishness; respect for each other; a drive to succeed; mentorship; and humility. Unlike the teams I have played on in the past, I did not try out for The Dementia Team. I was given a membership. But like always, I will try to work hard and support my teammates.

What is the opposition team you ask – dementia. Each member of The Team is trying to beat dementia in some way, shape or form. I have a great team and am thankful for the players I am with.

Go team go! Go team go!



Copyright 2013 Mary Beth Wighton