In this Part One of a two-part interview, I have the incredible honor of interviewing Mary Jane, "MJ", Grant about her experiences with caring for her mom with dementia.
You may remember MJ Grant's video that went viral, called "Dementia Can Be Beautiful". It's had more than 2.2 million views (on Facebook alone!) and shows MJ and her mom sitting silently in a car signing with each other.
In the video, MJ's mom, Carmen (Wiggins) Grant, who is deaf and has dementia, doesn't remember that MJ is her daughter. During the conversation, MJ's mom comes to discover MJ and they share a warm embrace. The level of love and connection in this video is a sight to behold!
I start my interview with MJ Grant talking about the "Dementia Can Be Beautiful" video, including how and why she made it, and what makes it so special.
In this interview, MJ also opens up about her mom's history of depression and anxiety, her mom's dreams of travel and freedom in retirement only to be grounded by the responsibilities of caregiving. Then with a twist of cruel irony, in the midst of caring for her mother (MJ's grandmother) with dementia, MJ's mom began to develop her own dementia disorder. MJ also shares about her mom's experiences growing up deaf in a majority hearing world.
MJ also describes the gift and the struggle of being a bridge between generations (bridging communication between her mom and daughter), being a bridge between hearing and deaf people (as a sign language interpreter), and being a bridge between wellness and illness (caring for herself while caring for her mother and mother-in-law with dementia).
MJ is a remarkable woman! She is a CODA, that's a "Child of Deaf Adults". MJ was born to deaf parents and has been a member of the Maine deaf community since childhood. She currently provides sign language interpreting services to deaf communities in New England. She's married, caring for aging parents, and parenting four children ranging in age from 5 to 25. And today I get to share her caregiving journey with you!
Here’s a sneak peek at what you’ll learn from my interview with MJ:
[02:53] MJ talks about the viral "Dementia Can Be Beautiful" video that has had more than 2.5 million views.
[07:47] MJ shares her own thoughts about what made the "Dementia Can Be Beautiful" video so special.
[10:08] MJ opens up about her mom's history of depression and anxiety and how now, with dementia, her mom is a "ray of light"
[12:10] How MJ's mom's dreams of travel and enjoyment in retirement were thwarted by caregiving for her mom (MJ's grandmother) who had Alzheimer's.
[14:11] Through the eyes of herself as a little girl, growing up, MJ experienced her mom as being dedicated to her and her sister and as a "survivor" working in a factory with not many people to talk with as a deaf person.
[17:45] Becoming a caregiver seems to come so naturally to MJ, but she describes her experience coming to terms with it, "I never thought I would be taking care of my parents, ever, you know, so, so there was a little bit of struggle there for me"
[21:06] How MJ and her husband made a decision to move their moms in with them.
[22:29] MJ talks about the bind of being in the sandwich, between caring for children and for her mom and mother-in-law with dementia.
[25:49] The moments that MJ's mom is not easy are few and far between, but MJ shares one such moment!
[27:02] MJ shares how she talks with her 5 year old about dementia.
[30:02] Being a CODA (a Child of Deaf Adults) is an important piece of MJ's identity. She shares what this experience was like for her and what life was like for her mom as well.
Before we wrap up, I wanted to share with you an important freebie, that's something free, I made for this episode. It's called, Dementia 101: A Beginner's Guide to Dementia Disorders. In it, I describe what dementia is and isn't. I describe the phases of dementia and what to do if you're worried that your aging parent may have dementia. So, take a moment to download it. It answers some of the most frequently asked questions I get about dementia!
Finally, please share this video with your friends who are caring for their aging parents because nobody should have to do this caregiving thing-alone.
Lots of love to you and your family. MJ and I will see you next week, where I'll be interviewing MJ on caring for her father at the end of his life!
Bye for now,
Dr. Regina Koepp
PS: Here's where you can follow MJ! (And, I hope you do! She'll continue to amaze you!)
Here's the link to MJ Grant's Dementia Can Be Beautiful Video!You can also watch it here! Stop what you're doing and watch this now! You'll want to grab a box of Kleenex.
I'm Dr. Regina Koepp!
I'm a Stanford trained, Board Certified Clinical Psychologist specializing with older adults and families! I'm an Assistant Professor at Emory University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, and a staff Psychologist working with older adults and families at the Atlanta VA Health Care System. I'm a mom of two little kids and a daughter to aging parents.
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My show walks you through the most complicated situations with your aging parents, like with illness, dementia, mental health concerns and end of life... so that you have peace of mind knowing that you're doing everything you can to help your parents live their best lives... without giving up your own life in the process!
Lots of love to you and your family!
- Dr. Regina Koepp
Learn all about dementia in this FREE Dementia 101 Guide!