Uniform Dress: Fraser Family Tartan
Mary’s dress uniform, worn mostly at Alzheimer’s/Dementia conferences and speaking engagements on the topic of dementia-care, honors the memory of her mom, Margaret Fraser MacDonald, who died at the age of 67 with Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD). The uniform consists of:
1. Lion & Lamb Pendant
2. Dress Jacket, Sweater, or Wrap
3. Sport or Dress Top
4. Fraser Tartan Kilted Skirt
5. Dress-for-Action Boots
Uniform Casual: Khaki Wilderness Guide
Mary’s in-the-trenches uniform, worn while leading trainings, retreats, and garden tours, consists of:
1. Lion & Lamb Pendant
2. Khaki Jacket, Sweater, or Wrap
3. Khaki Top
4. Khaki Pants
5. Trail Shoes
About the Lion & Lamb Pendant
The lion serves to protect Mary’s heart and give Mary the courage to continue working as a survivor in the area of dementia-care support and advocacy. The lamb represents Mary’s own woundedness and compassion with dementia- and long-term-carers. In the sacrifice, in the heart-ache, is the shared suffering and source for healing self and others.
Lion & Lamb Pendant Design and Development History:
- The two-sided Lion/Lamb pendant began as a body-felt heart-ache that bore a body-felt protective presence, experienced by Mary in February 2011, while visiting again for the first time (after her mom’s death) a local dementia-caregiver support group. Mary envisioned a pendant she would wear in front of her heart, that would contain a meek lamb in child’s pose on the inside, with the brave face of a lion on the outside. Together, they represent the paradox of Mary’s being wounded and fearless (fearlessness comes with the gift of losing everything, having nothing more to lose, and faith).
- Mary met with fine artist Terri Talas of Exeter, NH, USA to discuss the design and choose the raw material (from ancient fossilized bones and ivory) in March 2011.
- The mammoth ivory was hand-carved by Terri Talas and completed in June 2011.
About the Khaki Wilderness Guide Uniform
When Mary was first invited to speak about her survivor’s mission on October 5, 2011, she felt that wearing a nice suit (from her un-touched-in-four-years-closet) would be inconsistent with her dementia-caregiving journey (that made her a displaced person), and with direct caregivers in the audience. Direct caregivers do not wear nice suits. It is not uncommon for dementia caregivers to be in a chronic role of crisis responder (which can feel like being deployed in an unfamiliar, uncertain, and unpredictably unfriendly environment). She chose to wear her trail shoes, hiking pants and top, and work jacket to:
- symbolize a solidarity with active caregivers and veterans
- symbolize a personal change of identity and focus, becoming a fighter for caregiver and care-receiver causes
- critique and bear witness to the health-system wilderness in which she had been lost and now is found as an experienced guide (similar to wilderness guides who earn their unique knowledge by traveling the same stretch of land and/or water over and over)
The khaki colors serve Mary’s role as a dirty fingernails gardener and landscape designer and reflect her Franciscan-oriented spirituality.
About the Fraser Family Tartan Uniform
Mary first wore this uniform at the “Map Through the Maze” Alzheimer’s Association MA/NH Conference for professionals on May 21, 2014. She has five reasons to wear her Fraser Family Tartan Uniform at Alzheimer’s/Dementia events:
Reason 1: Remembering: Margaret Fraser
Mary’s mom, Margaret Fraser, died at the age of sixty-seven from a frontotemporal degenerative brain disease (FTD). This disease primarily takes people at their prime of life (typically between the ages of 40-60). It is often a more rapid degenerative process than an Alzheimer’s type dementia. It is one of the rarer-forms of dementia that receives little attention and little research funding. Mary wears the tartan to honor her mom and to bring more attention to the disease FTD.
Reason 2: Raising Awareness: FTD’s Impact on Family Members
Many health-system professionals are not aware of dementia’s impact on family members; they are not compensated (yet-as far as we know…) to do anything for family members; they rarely look at family members through a lens of caring-for-a-family-member when they are barely able (due to inadequate staffing, time-constraints, case-load-burden, and/or lack-of-training/knowledge) to appropriately care-for-the-patient. FTD is considered by experts to be one of the toughest types of dementia as far as its effects on a family. FTD created the perfect storm that set Mary’s world spinning out-of-control in 2007. The effects of FTD on Mary’s professional career, home, retirement savings, personal health, love relationship, extended family relationships, and friendships created the trauma from which Mary’s survivor’s mission, Marymac Missions, was born.
Reason 3: Raising Awareness: Family Caregivers as Eighty Percent of Long-Term-Care and Dementia-Care Providers
The family’s role in caring for disabled family members (including persons with dementia) is largely unseen and uncompensated for in American culture. This needs to change.
Reason 4: Making a Statement: Marymac Missions Focuses on Family
In professional practice, most healthcare professionals are working to help people with chronic or serious illness and disability, not their family members. Marymac Missions focuses on the holistic health of the family system when the family is experiencing long-term illness and disability.
Reason 5: Raising Awareness: Dementia and Family Genetics
Some people living with dementia are realizing early-on,”I’ve got the family gene…” implying they aren’t happy about it. Living with memory-loss and its effects introduces a new, uncertain chapter in life that echoes the experiences of previous generations. More research is needed in this area so that we can stop the passing-down of dementia through the family tree.