Dementia is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., killing more people than breast and prostate cancer combined. Often, we tend to pass off dementia as a disease that causes people to “be forgetful.”
Joey Daley is proving it’s so much more than that.
The 45-year-old from Ohio has started a YouTube channel to show the painfully devastating toll that the disease can have on an entire family.
His 67-year-old mother, Molly, was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia at the age of 65. She now lives in an assisted living home where someone helps to bathe her, feed her, giver her medicine and do everything that she once was able to do on her own.
Joe explains, “Dementia if you can imagine—write down everything that you can do on a chalkboard, and every couple months, erase one of those things off until you slowly forget how to do everything that you’ve done your entire life.” He continues, “Get dressed, get a cup of water—the simplest things—you forget.”
Joe started a YouTube series where he takes his mom out a couple of times a week and just does normal things with her. He hopes the videos can shed light on the disease as a whole, and will inspire and educate others about its debilitating effects.
On this particular day, Joe picked up his mother and took her to the mall. Everything started off fine, and Molly was in good spirits, but you can quickly see where her mind betrays her, and she becomes confused.
This video was the first time that Joey was faced with the devastating reality that his mom no longer knows who he is, nor does she know that she’s his mother.
The video is 26 minutes long, but the most heartbreaking part is when Joe and his mother are drinking coffee together. At about the eight-minute mark, he begins to ask her questions about the family, and fights back tears as she strains her brain to make sense of what he’s saying to her. It’s during this conversation that Joe watches as his mom forgets who he is for the first time.
They continued on, and Joe reassured his mom multiple times that everything is OK, he’s just crying about something that happened at work.
When he brings her back to the nursing home, he grabs the photos hanging on her wall, and pushes one more time to see if he can trigger her memory. Molly knows the names of almost everyone in the photos—her children and grandchildren—but can’t tell Joe her relationship to any of them. She’s unable to recognize that Joe—the man standing in front of her—is the same person in the very last picture she’s holding.
When Joe gets back in his car, he completely breaks down on camera saying, “Worst day of my life. She knows my name, but not who I am…I feel like she just died.”
He goes on to try to make sense of everything he just experienced saying, “I thought this would come a lot later, when she couldn’t talk. I just want to get back in and ask her one more time—‘who am I?’
And have her say ‘my son.’”