Imagine not knowing what time it is and walking into a room full of clocks all showing a different time. This is what I imagine my mother’s dementia state is like.
In the summer of 2020 amid a pandemic, my widowed mother was diagnosed with dementia. She would be among the 569,600 Canadians living with dementia that year. 61.8% of those were women.
Dementia currently affects more than 50 million people worldwide, with a new diagnosis being made every three seconds.
Two years later I was tasked with the difficult decision of moving my mother into a retirement home. Her love language had always been food and she was completely fluent in many different cuisines. So much so that up until my teens, I thought tourtière pies — a traditional French-Canadian meat dish — was from our Caribbean culture. And when I became a vegan in my 20s, she simply replaced the ground beef (the main ingredient in tourtières) with eggplant.
Most cases of dementia aren’t related to genetics or inherited.
I ended up choosing a place where my mother would at least have a kitchenette. This miniature room box represents the full-scale kitchen I wish I could have given her. A space big enough for friends and family to drop in, lots of plants, and of course a place to cook — something she could no longer do with the only appliances being a microwave and fridge.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and may contribute to 60-70% of cases.
Incorporated in the miniature kitchen are items that I salvaged while downsizing my mother: the hands on some of the miniature wall clocks are from her assorted collection of wristwatches; the miniature foliage are from a few of her silk plants that were de rigueur in the 80s; and the dishes, mugs and fruit bowl are made from pattern tissue paper — my mother loved to sew almost as much as she loved to cook.
By 2030 it’s estimated that 912,000 will be living with Dementia in Canada.
I added one more component to Dementia Miniature Suite. Among my extended family and friends there were too many of us who have or had someone close to us suffer from dementia. And a few people on social media shared similar stories with me.
So, framing the room box at the bottom there are engraved names and a digital time. These are the names, birth month and day of our loved ones. I wanted to show how widespread dementia sadly is.
Thank you to all that shared your story or lent your loved one’s name to this project.
I invite anyone who has or had someone close to them suffer with dementia to add their loved one’s name, birth month and date in the comment section below.
Dementia Miniature Suite is part of DesignTO 2023 window exhibits viewable at Augustus Jones, 33 Davies Ave., in Toronto from Jan. 20 to Feb 3.