Personal Stories from the ADC Program: Meet Our Patients, Caregivers, and Staff
UCLA's award-winning Alzheimer's and Dementia Care (ADC) Program helps patients living with dementia and their caregivers meet the complex medical, behavioral, and social needs.
This program is a lifeline, providing emotional, educational, and medical support for patients living with this progressive disease and caregivers navigating the journey.
The ADC Program team tailors care for the patients, caregivers, and their families while learning about their life stories, joys, and hopes.
Meet some of the ADC Program's wonderful patients, families, and staff.
Meet Mary, a dynamic woman who wanted us to know that as a patient with memory loss, her sound advice is to always stay connected with your family. Mary emphasized enjoying and relishing with her family because, as she adds, "you never know how much time you have left together." We learned from Mary and her family that they are in contact often and remain a constant in her life. Dementia is a disease that can take away from patients and families, but after listening to Mary, it's evident that dementia can also bring patients and families closer together.
Hello, my name is Mary. My daughter Brigitte and I have been a part of the ADC program for almost 3 years.
What do you remember most about your childhood?
I was born in North Wales, England in 1934. Growing up, I remember my experiences during World War II, where people were given food rations and each family was given food coupons every week. We lived in the country and around farms, so we were lucky because there was always food and we were never hungry. I remember people being kind and looking out for one another.
How did you meet your spouse? What did you like about him?
I remember the day I met my husband, Peter. We met at a dance in Chelsea, London, after both of our friends stood us up. From the beginning I liked him right away, even though he had a terrible car. There was just something about him. Looking back, meeting my husband was the happiest moment of my life.
What were your happiest moments as an adult?
After we were married, we rented an oceanside apartment in Malibu for $125 a month. My most precious memories of that time are about raising our wonderful kids: Brigitte, David, and Lynda. It was a lovely time in our lives. I’m incredibly proud of my 3 children, who have turned out beautifully and are loving people.
What is one piece of advice you would give to the younger generation?
Stay connected with your family. Keep them together. Enjoy and love being with them, because you never know how much time you have left.
What advice would you give to other caregivers taking care of persons living with dementia?
Brigitte: Be patient. We all get caught up in our lives. Take the time and be patient. Ask the questions. Appreciate the time you have. We appreciate the time we have for each other. Time is limited so take advantage of that time.
Sam and Paula were the epitome of a couple who lived their life to the fullest. From traveling the world, raising their blended families, maintaining close friendships, and playing competitive backgammon, these two never seemed to stay still. Throughout the ups and downs of the disease, they hardly left each others' side.
Tell us about Sam and what he meant to you.
Sam is my late husband and he meant everything to me. We were passionately married for over 40 years, and he filled my life with such joy and pleasure. It was a second marriage for both of us and he was a sweet and adoring father to my children. As a wife, I always felt that his main goal was to make me happy. I always felt cherished and loved.
If there is anything the world should know about Sam, what would it be?
Sam was glamorous, worldly, handsome, and well-dressed. That was evident to anyone who knew him. But I want people to know that he was kind and generous, had a very giving heart and a good soul. He was kind to everyone.
Tell us about your journey as a caregiver. How did you deal with the challenges you faced as a caregiver?
It was very hard seeing the person I loved becoming frail. The caregiving role came in baby steps and stages, happened over a few years. The main challenge for me was sadness. I had to overcome my sadness seeing the person I loved changing in front of me.
My family played a big role in helping me cope because they were around all the time. They were here almost every day and their presence helped a lot. As a caregiver, you must find ways to reach out to someone, whether it’s a support group, your family, and friends. You might be embarrassed to reach out, but you need to learn how to say “I need help. Can you come over for a few hours?”
As a caregiver, you must make sure your mental health is strong so you can take care of your loved one. As much as I loved him, it became difficult at times. I had to learn how to go to a place of love and show him more love than ever.
What advice would you give other caregivers taking care of persons living with dementia?
Sometimes we don’t have a choice on whether we want to take on this caregiving role. I would advise you to develop a sense of patience. Looking back, there were times when I could have been more patient because I was looking for the old Sam. Try your best to look for the person you know and remember the person you love. That person is still in there. Slow down and take it easy. Live in the moment. Get help and support. Reach out.
What silver lining have you found in this experience?
It made me feel happy to set an example for our children and grandchildren. The silver lining, I am passing on to them is how to have compassion. During our journey, our children and grandchildren became very compassionate people. Sam and I are passing that down as part of our heritage.