Margaret Patricia McKeown has spent most of her life in Montreal, but she moved to Calgary four years ago to live closer to two of her six children, when confusion made it difficult for her to live alone. She was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment in 2013, and it has since progressed to dementia.
Though she adored her life in Quebec, 91-year-old McKeown now revels in the Alberta mountain views and in watching the sunrise through her kitchen window. Known as Pat by most and “Patricia Delicia” by her children, she talks here about her experience living with dementia, marked by her upbeat attitude and deadpan humour.
I lived most of my life in Montreal. When I moved to Calgary, it wasn’t the first time I had come here, but it’s different when you’re being taken care of, and that’s what I’ve had to adjust to. My two children who live in Calgary do a lot for me. My daughter Mary does her best to look after me and take me places.
My diagnosis is where I get fuzzy. It just happened. Some days are not good days, but others are good days. A good day is when we go out for lunch and laugh a lot. Otherwise, it feels like we’d all be crying.
I’ve travelled a lot. I’ve got all kinds of pictures to prove it. I’ve been to Italy two or three times at least, been to more than 30-some countries. I also enjoyed skiing when I was younger, but I’m a poor skier now, and besides that, I’m a little hard-pressed to get somewhere where I could ski.
I try to keep in touch with friends, but sending letters in the mail is hard because I forget my words, forget what the subject is. It’s [hard] having this juggling around in my head.
I was always happy if I could find a book to read. I like people, but sometimes books are much better. I miss going to the market but I watch the news and read the paper every day. That’s my life now. But I’ve also been busy since I retired from my job as a lab technician for Ogilvie Mills at 65. I haven’t been sitting around wasting my time.
Since I’ve been retired, I’ve become more philosophical. I’m a little more giving than I used to be. ‘We get too soon rich and too late smart’ — I read that somewhere. Another thing I like to say is ‘growing old is not for the faint of heart,’ but it beats the alternative.” [ ]