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  • Writer's pictureSee Pain More Clearly Team

Family Story - A Special “Bates” Family Christmas

Our Dementia Journey

Our family experienced profound change in 2015 when Mom and Dad were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

Audrey AuCoin and Aubrey Bates met in primary school in small-town Cape Breton, Nova

Scotia. They married in 1953 and eventually settled in Moncton, New Brunswick. They had five children, 10 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

My parents were community leaders, avid bridge players, frequent travellers and provincial lawn bowling champions.

My husband, our children and I were very fortunate to live near Mom and Dad during their retirement years. We gathered every Sunday for family dinners and had extended family

celebrations every summer.

With rapidly declining health, and increasing difficulties coping at home despite extra support

and caregiving efforts, Dad moved into long-term care in Autumn 2015 and Mom followed several months later.

Christmas 2015

The special care home staff joined us in our efforts to make Christmas 2015 as festive as

possible for my parents. We were provided with a large and comfortable private space to gather and share the beautiful Christmas meal prepared for residents and families by staff. We opened gifts and played traditional family games that we could all participate in and enjoy. There was much laughter and joy that day, and many new special memories were made.

This was a wonderful opportunity for Dad to read his annual Christmas “Mr. and Mrs. Right” game script. We weren’t sure if he would be able to take on this role with his dementia in mind, but he retained the ability to play card games and complete Sudoku puzzles. We hoped these abilities meant that he would be able to carry out this annual Christmas tradition. After we handed out a small wrapped gift to each family member, Dad proudly read the lines for the Mr. and Mrs. Right game that we had prepared for him. We then sent our item to the right when my father said the word “right” and to the left when he said “left.” We all had much-needed laughs and thoroughly enjoyed this Christmas time together.

A Time To Be Thankful

We were also very thankful that Dad did not appear to be in any pain at this time

These were special days that we will cherish for many years to come. Had either Mom or Dad been experiencing pain that they couldn’t tell us about, this Christmas memory would have been very different. Of course, this concern was front of mind for us over the next several years as my parents’ dementia progressed.

This is why we fully support the work Thomas and his team are doing to improve pain

assessment and management practices in Canadian long-term care settings. This work is

particularly important to families as their loved ones' ability to communicate often declines with the progression of dementia. We also value the efforts of the #SeePainMoreClearly campaign led by Thomas to promote the implementation of the best available research findings in long-term care settings to make sure

that our loved ones do not suffer in silence.

Mary Bates Brachaniec

Riverview, New Brunswick

Care Partner

#SeePainMoreClearly Research Team

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How You Can Help?

Would you like to share your thoughts on our See Pain More Clearly initiative and the use of social media to mobilize knowledge about pain in dementia?

We are looking for participants to participate in a study to evaluate the effectiveness of the #seepainmoreclearly social media initiative to mobilize knowledge about pain in dementia.


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