Daughter Shares Her #1 Tip For Staying Connected To Alzheimer’s Mom

CareYaya speaks with Andrea Osborne whose mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 64. Andrea is a blog writer who shares her experiences with caring for her mother. Join us as she personally takes us into her life and describes how she was able to stay connected with her mother during hard times.

As the leading affordable senior care solution for elders with dementia and Alzheimer's, CareYaya is proud to support family caregivers like Andrea.

As more American families face dementia diagnoses for aging parents, the emotional and physical toll of caregiving can feel overwhelming. In this poignant interview, Andrea Osborne pulls back the curtain on her journey caring for a mother with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Andrea shares the shock of initial diagnosis at only 64 years old, then leans on vital community resources like the Dementia Alliance of North Carolina to navigate unfamiliar territory. She explains the guilt and grief of difficult decisions like moving her mother into specialized memory care. However, Andrea maintains an inspiring connection through personal touches like musical recordings and handmade cards.

Balancing caregiving, parenthood and a successful career nearly broke Andrea without an empathetic workplace and support system. She eventually finds solace in a group who intimately understands her daily heartbreaks and triumphs. Now this daughter preserves her mom’s legacy while guiding others facing dementia through writing and compassionate storytelling. For anyone struggling with a recent Alzheimer's diagnosis, Andrea's wisdom and resilience provides a light ahead.

Episode Summary:

Andrea shares her experience of caring for her mother with Alzheimer's disease. She discusses the shock of the diagnosis, the impact of early-onset Alzheimer's, and the challenges of transitioning her mother to a memory care facility. Andrea emphasizes the importance of finding support and resources, maintaining a connection with her mother through music and cards, and fostering a relationship between her mother and daughter. She also discusses the challenges of balancing work and caregiving and the value of support groups. Andrea shares her motivation for writing about her experience and offers advice for families facing an Alzheimer's diagnosis.


00:00 Introduction and Background
01:33 The Shock of Alzheimer's Diagnosis
04:28 The Impact of Early-Onset Alzheimer's
05:04 Finding Support and Resources
06:08 Transitioning to Memory Care Facility
10:23 Maintaining Connection through Music and Cards
13:06 Fostering a Relationship between Mother and Daughter
14:35 Balancing Work and Caregiving
16:40 The Importance of Support Groups
18:18 Sharing the Journey through Writing
19:45 Advice for Families Facing Alzheimer's Diagnosis

Full Episode Transcript:

Leah (00:00.85)
Andrea, I am super excited to speak with you this morning. Thank you so much for coming on. Stories like yours, I feel like are so important to share because there are experiences that so many families go through and it's stuff that's not often talked about. So first I wanna thank you for sharing your experiences and your story on our podcast, but also through your written work and to give the listeners a little bit of context. Do you mind starting by just telling us a bit about your mom?

Andrea Osborne (00:06.141)
absolutely happy to be here.

Andrea Osborne (00:31.276)
Absolutely. So my mom was always the rock of our family. She actually worked in healthcare. She was an x-ray tech early on, kind of took a lot of time away from work raising my brother and I. But, you know, the gist of that is anytime anyone in our family had a medical issue, my mom was the person who went to the doctor, took the notes, understood what was going on. She was that anchor person.

So when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, it was like deer in the headlights for me and my dad and my brother. Because, you know, suddenly our anchor person was, you know, off the bench and we all had to figure it out for ourselves. And again, she was that communicator in the family, kept everybody coming together, just the linchpin, the cornerstone. So that made it especially hard for her to be the one that we all.

we all had to learn a lot of new skills really fast.

Leah (01:33.47)
Yeah, I can imagine. Your mom sounds like an incredible woman. So you had mentioned during the headlights, was the initial Alzheimer's diagnosis a complete shock? Were there signs leading up to it? What was that initial period like?

Andrea Osborne (01:49.62)
Yeah, there were some signs that, you know, of course in retrospect, I'm like, oh, but at the time didn't make any sense. My daughter was in preschool and my brother had two kids in preschool and my mom is amazing, loving grandmother. That was her favorite role was being Nana. She lived like an hour and a half away from me. So she would a lot of times drive to Raleigh and stay with me to watch my daughter so I could get work done.

would do the same for my brother. He lived closer to her. And I noticed that she started kind of mixing up dates or seeming unsure, you know, it's like, oh, mom was supposed to come down Tuesday. We'd talk on the phone. She'd say, well, I'll see you Thursday. And so I finally called my brother and I said, do you think mom is trying?

in a nice way without saying, let us know she doesn't wanna come down and help with my daughter anymore. Maybe it's getting too much or she's just, you know. And so I thought, well, maybe she's trying to subtly tell me that. And my brother was like, you know, I'm noticing the same things with my kids. He's getting confused on dates, a little bit unsure, maybe gets here late. And that is not like my mom at all. And then my 40th birthday came.

My mom did not call me, did not acknowledge it. And I was crushed because I was like, is she mad at me? She has always called on my birthday and done special things. And I mean, 40 is huge. So started putting all the pieces together and mom told me one day, Andrea, I'm so embarrassed. I paid a bill, I accidentally sent in a deposit slip instead of a check and they sent it back.

And so I sat down, my brother and I had talked, then I talked with my dad and compared notes. He had noticed things. And then I sat down with mom and talked to her and she was like, yeah, something's up. And it did take a while to get her to go to the doctor because sometimes you just don't wanna hear. But we took her up to Wake Forest Baptist to try to get involved in a study actually up there. And mom and dad got the devastating news. She was too far along to participate in any study.

Andrea Osborne (04:08.896)
that she had dementia, Alzheimer's, and then we were on the road. And she was only 64 years old, by the way. So she was not, you know, what you would consider your typical age. She had early onset Alzheimer's and was diagnosed at age 64.

Leah (04:28.018)
Yeah, yeah, I mean, a devastating diagnosis at a young age, for sure. And it is interesting, little things that are just out of character for the person that you have known your whole life can add up in, I guess, in one sense, while it is a devastating diagnosis, having a label on it. Was that a relief at all? Or did it? I mean, it's not a good diagnosis. So

Did it provide any sort of comfort to have a label on it and to know, okay, there are now resources out there that we can use?

Andrea Osborne (05:04.468)
It both was and it wasn't. You know, hearing that finality of the word is horrible. But again, like you said, it was like, okay, we have a game plan now. What do we do next? And I was very lucky. I had a coworker who was connected with what was at the time called Alzheimer's North Carolina. They're now called Dementia Alliance of North Carolina and got me connected with them so I could go in and talk to some people and just.

say I don't know what to do because no one in our family had ever had Alzheimer's or dementia. We had zero experience with it so we did not know what we were facing and those folks at Dementia Alliance were game-changing for me because I had a place to reach out to.

Leah (05:49.163)

I've heard so many good things about Dementia Alliance in C. I'm glad you've had a great experience with them as well. So what was that initial game plan? Your mom continued to live at home for a while, right? And your father was a caretaker, the rest of you stepped in. What was that initial care plan like?

Andrea Osborne (06:08.16)
Yeah, so my dad, we figured would work until the day he dropped. He was a general contractor, owned a business with his brother, and just worked a lot. He immediately retired. And, you know, they kind of stepped down a little bit. At first, mom could still stay home a little bit on her own. And so he worked a little bit, but then he pretty quickly just went down to not working at all to be there with her. We had to...

take her license pretty early on, which thankfully, because my mom is such a sweet person, she was upset about it, but she understood that she would never want to hurt anyone else accidentally. So he just stayed home so he could be there for transportation for her and just, she'd get frightened alone, but as long as somebody was with her, she was okay. So it immediately changed his life.

and he was the most incredible caregiver. I mean, he would have sold their house and lived in a tent to get her the care that she needed.

Leah (07:14.114)
Wow, wow. That's so amazing that your dad was able to do that and kind of thrived in that role. So she lives at home under your father's care for a while and at some point, you as a family made the decision that the best move for her would be to go into a memory care facility, is that right?

Andrea Osborne (07:34.452)
Yeah, during the pandemic, it just became unmanageable because my dad had a few, at this point, he was needing a caregiver all night every night because my mom didn't sleep a lot and we were concerned it was gonna destroy his health. And so he had someone that came every night and ideally he would have had someone every single day to come relieve him. Cause with the pandemic, they could no longer take long drives.

because there was nowhere for mom to go to the bathroom at the other end, you know, everything was closed. There were just so many going out to restaurants, which again, would give him a break. They could eat out. Well, you couldn't do that during the pandemic. And then some of his caregivers couldn't come anymore because they had children who were in school or they had a spouse that had a health issue. So he really was stranded alone with just not high quality care. We just couldn't find enough.

Leah (08:08.693)

Andrea Osborne (08:33.028)
decent caregivers. And so it was tough, but my brother and I finally talked him into, look, Dad, you're gonna fall out of a heart attack and Mom's gonna be alone for a day and not know what's happened, and you don't want that. So we did find a care facility near them in Greensboro. That was one of the hardest days of our lives, was having her dropped off over there, because you literally had to drop her off at the front door and couldn't go in.

And then we knew once she stepped in that door and it closed, we had no idea how long it would be before we saw her again, because they were on lockdown. And we got lucky. It was only about, I think, two months until they opened up for visitors, you know, limited visitors again. But that was brutal. Also knowing that any thread that mom had of knowing us,

was going to be completely erased by that time and that new location and it was.

Leah (09:34.594)
Wow, it certainly takes a village to care for someone in this position and that's hard enough to find in normal circumstances when we're seeing such care shortages across the board, but especially exasperated during the pandemic. So I know that is incredibly difficult thing to manage and a difficult decision to make because even if it objectively is the right decision and it provides the best care for everyone involved, there is still a level of...

I want to say like guilt or hesitance to do this, even if it is objectively the right decision. So I know that it is a hard decision and you have done so many things to maintain a connection with your mother while she was living in this memory care facility. Do you want to share what some of those are? I've enjoyed reading about them in your blog. So.

Andrea Osborne (10:23.776)
Yeah, absolutely. One of the biggest things has been music. I've always loved to sing. And it's funny, my mom, you know, liked music, but I would never have considered her musical or that attached to music. But boy, in Alzheimer's, she sang, they called her the human jukebox at her facility, because they could play any song and she would sing. Early on when mom was diagnosed, I immediately wanted to record myself singing for her.

Leah (10:42.047)
Thank you.

Andrea Osborne (10:53.14)
that was important to me. And I had a coworker who was a huge supporter. I ended up making an album that was a fundraiser for Dementia Alliance. And it was all the things I wanted to say to my mom. They were covers of different songs. And so I had recorded that. And literally, I think during mom's journey, that CD was played every day. Like if she was upset in the facility, they would play it and she would calm down.

Leah (11:20.576)
it nice.

Andrea Osborne (11:21.292)
Dad could put her in the car and play it and it would calm her down. And so that was just particularly meaningful. Once her facility opened for visitors, my daughter and I would go, my daughter was teen at the time and taught herself to play ukulele. We would go play music for mom in her room and sing with her, which was amazing. When I couldn't visit, I started making cards.

And sometimes they look like a third grader made them. I went on Pinterest and found things for like pop-up cards. I made them very colorful, really simple, because you couldn't really write a letter, but it would just be like, mom, I love you. And it might have a heart inside. And they put those all around her room. So it was like,

She had this bright sunshine and to me, it didn't matter that if she could grasp that I was the one who made it. It was just bringing her happiness and sunshine. And just again, doing anything we could to stay connected with her. This time singing will go down as some of the just favorite of my life. Just being there with her and, you know, and letting the staff know we were around and that we cared and that we appreciated them was huge too and staying connected to her.

Leah (12:39.954)
Yeah, those are such special experiences. The music sounds incredible and I am curious. I'm going to find the CD now to give it a listen. And I've seen the pictures of the cards. They are very nice. So those are such wonderful ways to stay connected. And I know you've written about how important it is for you to make sure that your daughter and your mother had a relationship. How were you able to make that happen?

Andrea Osborne (13:06.104)
Just making sure they had time together, that was one of the things that hurt the most. Because I think Alicia was maybe six when my math is terrible, around six when my mom was diagnosed. And I was like, oh God, please no, please let Alicia know her grandmother so she will remember her. You know, and we were so lucky. My mom lived until Alicia was 18 and they were very connected. You could see that in so many ways.

And my mom wouldn't always pay attention to my daughter as she progressed. Sometimes that would be hard, but you could see these moments of connection where she'd reach over and kiss her on the cheek or she loved singing music with her. And the last picture selfie that my daughter got with my mom was of mom smiling. And mom didn't smile a lot towards the very end. But when Alicia leaned over and said, Nana, let's get a picture, mom put on a big smile.

and it's our most cherished photo.

Leah (14:07.214)
That sounds incredible. And so this entire time while you were raising your daughter and helping manage care for your mom, you were also balancing a very successful career. And I would like to know a little bit more about that experience because there are so many people out there who are working full-time jobs and also having this dual role as parent and caretaker for an aging relative. So what were some of the challenges you experienced with that? And

Was there anything that was super supportive for you during this time?

Andrea Osborne (14:40.584)
It was very, very overwhelming. And I absolutely hands down could not have done it without an amazing boss who understood. I mean, I sat down with her and said, look, I feel my mom's time on this earth is not long and I've got to see her. And my boss was like, whatever you need. And so every other week, and then at the end it was every week, I would just leave Raleigh, drive to Greensboro.

visit my mom, drive back, and I could make up work in the evening, in the early morning. I mean, my boss was so, so supportive and amazing, and I was so, so lucky with that. My husband, the same, was just so good, and friends. I mean, you cannot, you can't do it alone. It is not physically possible. I would tell people, don't even try. You know, there were times I had to call friends, be like, could you please pick up Alicia from school, because I wanna go in and see my mom.

you know, and I'd find a way to make it work. Because people are willing to help you. They really are. And I'm so glad that I asked for that help because it meant I had time with my mom that I, you know, wouldn't trade anything in the world for.

Leah (15:53.462)
Yeah, that's so incredible that your boss was so supportive. And I agree that most people out there have good hearts and want to support others through hard things. And sometimes it is just hard to ask, especially in a workplace environment where it sounds like you have a great relationship with your boss, but if people are worried about workplace retaliation or anything like that, it can be even more difficult to share these already personal stories. So, but I'm glad it worked out so well for you.

Andrea Osborne (16:23.392)
Yeah, I feel so blessed.

Leah (16:23.586)
That's awesome. Yeah, and you've mentioned the essential nature of having support groups as you're going through experiences like this. Can you share how you got connected with some support groups? And what was the experience like being involved in one?

Andrea Osborne (16:40.02)
Yeah, over the years, I went to a lot of different programs with Dementia Alliance, you know, went to Alzheimer's Walks and different things. It always helped my feelings just to be in the presence of other people who understood without having to explain anything. And then when we moved mom in her facility and they were able to open up a little bit, they started a support group for families there who had residents in the memory care. And...

I got my dad who had been kind of reticent because it's this thing you don't want to learn too much before you're ready and you don't want to be in this group where everybody's being negative, which I think it kind of held both of us back. But we really wanted to get involved at mom's facility. So we went to the support group and it was a game changer because again, we just sat with people who understood. We cried together. We cheered together when, you know, good things happened.

helped give each other ideas of, oh, this works with my loved one, or we supported each other with saying, hey, you need a break. You need to not come in here tomorrow. You need to give yourself that gift and give yourself some grace. And to me, that group was just a game changer because we were just friends on the same journey and we understood, and you could just come in there and sit down and just talk about the weather, but know that everybody in that room understood what you were going through.

Leah (18:07.778)
Wow. And that experience with this community of people, is that part of the inspiration as to why you started writing to share your story?

Andrea Osborne (18:18.132)
Absolutely. I wanted to pay it forward, you know, share the things that I've learned in case they helped somebody else because so many people helped me. There was a woman at mom's facility that I lovingly called the PTA president. Her mom was in the facility as well and she, you know, did nice things for the staff and rallied a lot of us caregivers. I could call her and talk straight with her about, okay.

this happened, what should I do next? Or did this happen to you? And I just wanted to pay forward the kindness of people like her. And also honestly, selfishly, it helps me process my own grief because my mom did pass away in early December somewhat suddenly. And it's really being able to write and put those feelings out kind of keeps a record for me. And it just helps me process what I've been through. And like I said, I just really pray it will help.

others that are going through the same thing.

Leah (19:18.286)
Yeah, as much as it helps you process, I am sure that it helps others who maybe haven't found that community yet, or who are in a community of supportive people, but who just need an extra resource to read and see what has worked for you and to know that, you know, they are not alone in experiencing this, even if it feels isolating, which I'm sure it does. There are other people out there who understand what they're going through and finding those connections are so important. To wrap us out,

Do you have a piece of advice that you wish maybe you had received years ago that you would want to share with a family who is dealing with possibly like a new Alzheimer's diagnosis?

Andrea Osborne (19:58.528)
So I just saw a quote this morning from Tipa Snow, who by the way is the goddess of care for people with dementia. I highly recommend checking Tipa out, but she had posted a quote this morning that said, "'Let go of what was to appreciate what is possible.'" That took me a while in the beginning, that letting go of how things always were, how mom always fixed the Christmas stockings, how things always went.

Leah (20:04.89)

Andrea Osborne (20:27.744)
When I was able to just let all that go and embrace where my mom was at the moment and where we were as a family, there were so many gifts and beautiful times along this dementia journey. And I'm so thankful that I was finally able to find that place of just rolling with it and loving the moment we were in.

Leah (20:48.834)
That's incredible. Thank you so much, Andrea, for sharing your story and experience with us today.

Andrea Osborne (20:54.836)

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