‘I told mom not to get out of the car. She nodded. When I walked into the parking lot and saw another woman standing at our car, my heart stopped. I knew something was wrong.’

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“My momma is 66 years old and was diagnosed with early-onset dementia 5 years ago. I quit my job to move in and be with her full-time, and every day is an adventure, to say the least. I try to keep up with how to care for her during the next phases of this progressive disease by watching YouTube videos and taking online classes, but as prepared as I may think I am, I honestly never know when things are going to change. Because of this, I found myself in a scary scenario a few weeks back.

I always take Momma with me when running errands and she usually knows to stay close to me, so on rare occasions that she doesn’t want to go inside the store, I’ll let her wait in the vehicle if I know I’m only going to be gone for a minute. On this particular day, I needed to run in the drugstore and drop off a prescription, something that would be extremely quick, so I thought she would be okay. I told Momma to wait and not get out of the vehicle. She smiled and nodded, things seemed fine. I did what I needed to do and was in and out in no time, but when I walked into the parking lot and saw another woman standing at the back of our vehicle, my heart stopped. I knew something was wrong.

I sprinted over there and found my momma at the woman’s car, jerking on the door. I don’t know what made her get out of our vehicle that day, but she walked to one that looked similar and saw her reflection in the door window. To momma, her reflection is her friend ‘Sharon,’ who now needed to be rescued from this stranger’s car. I apologized to the woman and explained Momma has dementia while trying to get her to come back to our own vehicle with me. Momma was furious that I was stopping her from rescuing ‘Sharon,’ so she began yelling unintelligibly, since her ability to speak coherently is almost entirely gone. I was finally able to lead Momma back to our vehicle by holding her hand and talking gently, promising that ‘Sharon’ was safe and waiting for us at home. As soon as I got her buckled in, we got the hell out of there.

That situation could have gone so much worse, and I’m endlessly thankful the woman didn’t call the police over a crazy lady screaming to get into her car. I learned that day that I can’t leave Momma alone, even for the briefest of errands, so now if she won’t get out of the vehicle to go into a store with me, I’ll just have to try again later.

As someone who suffers from anxiety disorder, moments like these are the hardest for me. To be made a spectacle of in public is my own personal nightmare, and having to be the calm adult in a difficult situation is completely foreign to me, especially if I have to talk to strangers or feel like people are staring at me.

Our world will continue to get smaller and smaller, but that’s how dementia works. At least we have each other.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Angela Tynes Usé, 34, of South Mississippi. Do you have a similar story? We’d like to hear your journey. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

Read more of Angela’s journey with her mother’s dementia here:

‘The wildest part is the hallucinations. She thinks her reflection is another person, whom she has named ‘Sharon.’ She has always been ditzy and silly, so it was harder to catch the changes happening as time went on.’

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