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WFA hon Victoria 2024 

Patricia Farmer - Victoria Honouree

2024 IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer's

Patricia Farmer’s experience with dementia started one evening in October 2022, with a call from her mom, Mary, who had seemed to be doing well living independently. That night, Patricia heard a discombobulated version of her mom on the line – a woman who didn’t know the day of the week, if it was day or night and had forgotten to eat. Then came a fall after Thanksgiving dinner at Patricia’s house. When Patricia took Mary home after the incident, the decline she had first heard on the phone was suddenly all around her in conspicuously hidden dirty laundry and a refrigerator stacked with rotten leftovers. Their journey with dementia has been an intense one ever since.

Patricia jumped into action to seek more support for Mary, a fiercely independent, generous and kind woman who took pride in her lifelong membership to international women’s organization Beta Sigma Phi and always loved to party. Unfortunately, Patricia’s initial requests for a cognitive assessment were denied. She secured an occupational assessment for mobility, and it didn’t result in any support. Concerned for Mary’s immediate safety, Patricia took a leave of absence from work and began daily visits with her mom – a topic that stirs heavy emotions for the career-driven person who wasn’t ready to step back from her role.

“I would go every morning and make sure she was up and prepare breakfast for her,” Patricia says. “I just realized it was a fast, slippery slope and she was deteriorating really quickly. My mom needed me.”

In January 2023, another fall landed Mary in emergency, where Patricia left her mother for the night. When she came to visit the next day, Patricia learned that Mary had fallen again – this time breaking a hip and requiring surgery. The type of break, Patricia was told at the time, would pose a significant health risk to Mary without the surgery; with surgery, the anesthetic could have an irreversible effect on her declining cognitive function.

It did. The anesthetic had a lasting impact on Mary’s cognition and she was unable to ground herself in the current time and place following her surgery. After Patricia advocated once again for a cognitive assessment, Mary was diagnosed with vascular dementia and eventually moved into long-term care. The transition coincided with Patricia’s difficult decision to retire early after 35 years as a Chartered Insurance Professional focusing on personal property and casualty insurance.

“Now I spend time with my mom, I advocate for her and I give her the best quality of life for what she’s got left,” Patricia says. “Don’t sweat the small stuff. Enjoy life. We’re only here such a short time.”

Patricia was referred to the Alzheimer Society of B.C. by hospital staff early in their journey and immediately felt at home in a caregiver support group, where she helps support other caregivers to prioritize their own well-being and stand up for the people living with dementia in their lives. She is very grateful for the connection and support the Alzheimer Society of B.C. has provided for her.

“I knew it was a safe place. I knew I wasn’t alone. I felt very comfortable at the first meeting and hearing other people’s stories, I thought ‘Wow, I’m in the right place.’”

The group remains a key aspect of Patricia’s self-care toolkit, alongside daily journaling and mindfulness practices. She now compares her relationship with her mom to the movie 50 First Dates, with Patricia taking Mary on the same excursions for ice cream or to gleefully feed the geese at Esquimalt Lagoon, while fielding the same questions. The scenes are filled with new joy for Patricia and Mary, who has never stopped telling her daughter how much she appreciates her. The appreciation is mutual.

“I love her and I’m just really grateful that when my soul came to the Earth, that she was my mom.”

Join Patricia on Sunday, May 26 at the Victoria IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer's.