How this mother and daughter are dealing with a dementia diagnosis

Judy and Karla Field talk about Judy's diagnosis of young onset dementia, how it was necessary for Judy to move in with Karla, and how the programs with the Alzheimer Society of Windsor and Essex help them both.
Judy and her daughter Karla said they have a stronger relationship after Judy's dementia diagnosis. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Judy Field's eyes light up when she talks about some of the new hobbies she's started sharing with her daughter, Karla, after Judy's dementia diagnosis in 2016.

"At home I've got to be focused," said Judy, who has binders full of pages pulled from adult colouring books. 

Judy has what's referred to as young onset dementia, a rare condition that makes up 2-8% of dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada. 

It was kinda like we were bumping heads at the beginning.- Karla Field

While Judy and Karla are close now, the year leading up to Judy's diagnosis was tense.

The Diagnosis

"I wasn't around much, I had my own life going on," said Karla, who started noticing signs during a routine visit with her mom.

"We ordered a pizza and she choked on it. Really bad. It scared me," she said, adding that having a conversation with her mom was nearly impossible at the time.

Judy Field said she takes walks with her daughter and uses adult colouring books to help her with her condition. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Judy moved in with her daughter later that year, so that Karla could help care for her mother. 

"I remember that, I remember that distinctly," said Judy. 

"It was scary for me," said Judy. "Then I went through my phase of being angry - why is she doing this to me?"

Karla Field said at first she felt frustrated when her mom was diagnosed but they've worked together to help each other. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"I got frustrated. Like a lot," said Karla. "It was kinda like we were bumping heads at the beginning."

But she said things got easier and "started going uphill."

Dealing with dementia

"I'm young," said Judy, who attends day programs at the Alzheimer Society of Windsor and Essex County. 

At 62, Judy likes to describe herself as "middle aged" and she enjoys being around some of the older people dealing with dementia at the day program because she feels like she can give back.

Judy and Karla Field said that the Alzheimer Society of Windsor and Essex has been a big help as they deal with Judy's diagnosis. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"In my position I can help," said Judy. "I don't feel like I'm in a little cave and can't do anything for anybody."

Karla said it helps her on days when things become stressful because she knows there's a group of people who are trained and ready to help her mother during the day.

​"I struggle with (trust) with people," said Karla. "But this place? I never, ever, ever ... have to worry because I know she goes and I can actually take a nap and sleep."

Both Judy and Karla said the key to handling an early onset dementia diagnosis is understanding that it can happen to people not considered senior citizens and to surround yourself with supportive people.