When the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s fell in the fall of 2018, it was a shock for Pierre Côté. He had noticed that his mother was less quick-witted, but he had attributed this to aging. He could not imagine his intellectual mother, a career teacher, condemned to lose her memory and wither away before his eyes. Pierre Côté was then unaware of the daily fight he was about to start.
“When I saw the test results, I understood that it was becoming official and the machine was set in motion: the diagnosis, the legal side, the notary, etc. I was coming back from several years of working abroad. It was quite a shock, ”says the man who returned to settle in Trois-Rivières to stay with his mother.
As his mother’s day approached a few months later, he wanted to do something special. He took out his computer, cameras and hard drives to make a film for him. To do so, he rummaged through family photos and his mother’s slides stored in old boxes and went to a repertoire of songs that inspired him.
“I put together a neat 30 minute video and organized a screening for the family. I have seen the reactions of my mother’s sisters and brothers, as well as his own. It kindled a flame in me. It was September 19, 2020. I then made a commitment to share my mother’s fight against Alzheimer’s and that I would not give up before she died, ”says Pierre Côté.
In recent years, Pierre Côté had come across documentaries about music at the heart of a therapeutic movement for people suffering from dementia. This had stuck in his mind and he wanted to try the experiment with his mother.
Thus, from the Spotify platform, the man designed playlists bringing together popular French-language hits from the 1950s, essentially songs that his mother loved as a teenager. He also brought out photos of his mother’s family and youth to help him boost his long-term memory.
Every day, between 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., he sits alongside his mother and puts on the music that resonates strongly in the room. Wrapped in the music, they then look at photos and discuss. He listens to his mother recount the memories a photo brings to his mind. Recently, he has also incorporated painting into the process so that his mother can paint while listening to the music she loved when she was younger.
“I am neither a scientist nor a doctor, launches Pierre Côté, but I saw significant improvements during these sessions, to the point where I wonder if it could cure Alzheimer’s. When the brain is not stimulated, the disease worsens exponentially. “
Support for family caregivers
Mr. Côté called on the member for Trois-Rivières and Minister Jean Boulet to present his project to him Therapeutic Happiness Memories Session and assess funding possibilities in order to benefit more caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s from this technique that he has developed.
“I want to open a dialogue to learn about his government’s plans to find out what his intentions are and where the $ 20 million promised for Alzheimer’s research announced in the spring are. I am also taking action so that this money is not entirely invested in research and that this fund can be redirected towards support for families suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, ”he pleads.
“For example, it would be interesting if people choosing to offer home support to loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s disease had access to a small starter kit that would explain actions they can take, such as digging through family memories and take a walk every day, ”adds Pierre Côté.
At the same time, he is shooting a documentary on his actions with his mother and on the evolution of the situation, as well as his activism on this issue.
“People with Alzheimer’s are human beings in their own right. I wear myself as an activist. If no one defends them, they will drop like flies. (…) My mother is in pain. She needs support. She needs to be respected and treated with dignity. Yesterday I asked her if she was feeling well, happy and safe. She said yes. This is what citizens want: their parents to be happy, free and joyful, ”he concludes.
Within 15 years, neurocognitive diseases will affect 937,000 people in Canada, including 260,000 Quebecers.