British Columbia

A new B.C. podcast takes an intimate look at caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's

A new podcast from the University of Victoria features audio diaries to tell the stories of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia — and the people who care for them.

'I needed to start being brave enough to share those difficult moments'

Brenda Brophy and her mother Dot on her 101st birthday. (Courtesy: Peter Brophy)

Caregivers of people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia may face a heartbreaking journey, but stigma can prevent them from sharing their experiences. 

A new podcast, Call to Mind, hopes to break the silence by sharing stories of people with Alzheimer's and the people who care for them. 

The podcast features audio diaries from caregivers in the hope that their stories would resonate with listeners.

Among the caregivers is Brenda Brophy, who took her mother out of long-term care back in September 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Podcast host Debra Sheets, a nursing professor and researcher with the institute on aging and lifelong health at the University of Victoria, approached Brophy, who recorded bits and pieces of her time with her mother.

At first, Brophy said, she found herself only recording the lighter moments with her mom, Dot. Over time, she realized she had to paint a more accurate picture. 

"I needed to start being brave enough to share those difficult moments, which they've woven into the story in the podcast and that was important," Brophy said.

"I realized that I wasn't being genuine and sharing what the full picture looks like because I wouldn't want anybody to think going into something like what we went through … is easy and joyful and singing and all this wonderful stuff."

In August 2021, Dot passed away at the age of 101 with Brenda at her side.

Brophy said she recently listened to the final cut of the podcast for the first time. 

"It's quite hard to listen to, but also beautiful at the same time," she said.

It's Alzheimer Awareness Month in Canada right now. Today we focus not just on the disease but also on how we care for people who are diagnosed with dementia. We're joined by Jay Ingram, who is helping raise awareness about dementia through the Public Health Agency of Canada, and Joanne Michael who is the director of programs and services for Alzheimer's Saskatchewan.

Sheets hopes Call to Mind will serve as an example of the value of keeping audio diaries. 

"I'm hoping the podcast may also inspire others to capture audio recordings with their family members, so that they have that going forward to remember some of the corny stories or jokes or things that make you laugh later," she said.