Understandably, watching a parent suffer is a painful process but Kimberly Williams-Paisley has found a way to learn lessons from her mother’s diagnosis of primary progressive aphasia 10 years ago. In addition to showing great inner strength, the actress is an example of how we can choose to support loved ones coping with dementia.
A New Kind of Love
Williams-Paisley was determined to not allow the disease to destroy her relationship with her mom so, instead of fighting the process, she chose to start loving the person her mother was becoming.
As she explains to People magazine: “People change and evolve in life anyway and this is just an extreme evolution in my mother. There were ways that she changed along the way that I loved. She became goofier and funnier. She became more accepting of me in a lot of ways. There were times when I was a mother and she just delighted in me, whereas in the past, she may have been a little more critical or she might have meddled a little more.”
What a remarkable silver lining to find in such a difficult situation! The 43-year-old actress and author went on to explain how Linda, who is now completely non-verbal and living in a memory care facility, seemed to find relief from other issues, at one point, as a result of the dementia.
Williams-Paisley said: “As it was, she just adored me and adored my kids (Huck, 8½, and Jasper, 6, with country music star husband, Brad Paisley) and adored being a grandmother. A lot of the anxiety and judgment that she used to have disappeared for a time. There was a phase where that’s where she was and it was really fun watching her delight in her grandchildren and delight in life and have that passion and joy that was unbridled because she didn’t really have an awareness of who she was in the same way she used to. She let go of a lot of inhibitions.”
While it appears that Williams-Paisley was able to find positivity in some of her mother’s changes, her father struggled with his wife’s diagnosis and the amount of care she needed. This isn’t uncommon for the spouses of someone afflicted with dementia.
The Father of the Bride actress explained: “I know my father got lost, even with the support of his family. He stopped returning calls and wouldn’t listen to reason. He got sucked into her disease and didn’t realize how much help he needed. It’s very important for people in this situation to ask for help and accept it and get the help wherever they can. ”
Fortunately, his daughter realized that he needed help and has started making an effort to raise awareness about this issue.
Spreading the Word
Williams-Paisley has become a spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s Association as well as the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Her goal is to inform the masses about the resources people can access to help them cope with this type of diagnosis.
“I think for anybody going through it, a key is finding a community of people that can support you,’ she told People. “Certainly, there are tons of resources out there if you don’t have family.”
Williams-Paisley will be releasing her book, Where the Light Gets In, in March.