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Kimberly Williams-Paisley Recalls Her Struggle With Mother’s Dementia

Kimberly Paisley Williams
Terry Wyatt, Getty Images

From the early signs to the diagnosis, to the needed longterm care and all the emotions in between, Brad Paisley’s wife Kimberly Williams-Paisley is sharing her story of learning to love again after her mother Linda was diagnosed with a form of dementia.

In a beautifully written essay for Rebook, the actress opens up about the full range of feelings and actions she and her family have gone through over the last decade.

Linda was a “joyful woman, devoted mother, an engaged listener and friend” before being diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia (PPA) at age 61. For years, Williams-Paisley and her family coped and supported her mother by covering for her when she would do things like ask for nachos at Starbucks.

The mom to Huck and Jasper also shares how her own mother interacted with her new grandkids. These paragraphs provide the most poignant commentary. Linda struggled to say Jasper’s name, and she and Huck made a game of it. “After awhile, the ‘Spasper game’ with Huck was more humiliating than fun,” Williams-Paisley writes. “We had to explain to him why he couldn’t play it with Nana anymore. He adapted.”

Williams-Paisley’s father was the primary caregiver until a panic attack sent him to the hospital. It was then clear that longterm care was the family’s only option. The actress became angry with the woman her mother had become, and held on to exhausting resentment for the incurable disease.

Only recently — after conversations with friends who’d gone through something similar — could she begin to love her mother again, this time in a new, almost spiritual way:

She is, in many ways, a “new” mom. But now it’s easier to welcome memories of her as she used to be. I see her in the expression Jasper makes when he sings at the top of his lungs, eyes and mouth open wide, head tilted back and shaking slightly. I remember her as I run, the way she always used to, into a cold ocean when no one else wants to. I’m sure I know how she felt as I listen to my own children with all my heart.

The diagnosis came in 2005, and the family has been coping since. Anyone who has struggled to understand this illness will appreciate Williams-Paisley’s honest essay.

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