NC Man Turns Mother Residing With Alzheimer’s Into TikTok Star

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (AP) — There are six days to go earlier than Thanksgiving, so Josh Pettit’s Mooresville residence isn’t but adorned with a single Christmas ornament. Nevertheless it certain appears to be like like Santa’s been right here just lately.

On the eating desk, the 47-year-old internet developer has neatly organized an unlimited assortment of presents — every part from T-shirts and handmade blankets to stuffed animal toys and child dolls — which have just lately arrived at a PO field for his mom, Betty Pettit, an Alzheimer’s sufferer.

All of them have been despatched by full strangers.

“These days there’s been an onslaught of presents,” Josh says, marveling at Betty’s haul regardless that he’s a major a part of the rationale it exists. “The mailbox place, they ship me an image day by day of the pile and so they say, ‘Your mother’s bought extra stuff!’”

It’s coming from just about in all places.

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“England, Australia, everywhere in the States,” Josh says. His father, Bob (Betty’s husband of 63 years), chimes: “Egypt. UK. Canada.”

“She bought a card yesterday and the postmark was North Pole, Alaska,” Josh says, chuckling, “which I didn’t know existed.” He shifts his consideration to his mother. “You didn’t know you have been that well-known, huh?”

Betty’s face takes on an expression that it typically does today when somebody talks to her — certainly one of confusion. “Am I?” she replies.

Josh nods. “You’ve bought nearly 1 / 4 of one million followers on TikTok, and 150,000 individuals on Fb,” Josh tells her. “Who knew? Proper?” It looks like Betty actually needs to grasp what he’s speaking about, however can’t untangle it. So she simply shrugs and says “Yeah, I suppose.”

“Proper,” Josh assures her. “We by no means would have thought.”

Her fame was born one Thanksgiving in the past, when Josh posted an overnight-sensation of a video on the social-media app TikTok that featured Betty discovering her reflection within the mirror, considering it was another person, and placing up a gently amicable dialog with it.

Betty has since maintained standing as a modest web star, in an ongoing sequence of movies Josh has used to spotlight the easy pleasures in her life.

On the similar time, Josh says questions often come up about whether or not it’s appropriate for him to be publicizing his mom’s wrestle like this. And far more pressingly, her illness — in addition to her prognosis — is after all getting worse.


“How’s that?” Josh asks his mother, after getting her settled onto the sofa between him and his dad of their front room.

“That’s good,” Betty says, smiling. “Comfortable.” Then she turns to him, appears to be like considerably blankly at him, and says, “Hello.”

“Hello!” he cheerily replies.

Betty pauses and purses her lips. “I’m attempting to assume who you might be.”

“I’m Josh,” he tells her.

Then Bob summarizes how they bought to this place:

He and Betty have been childhood sweethearts, from a city exterior of Buffalo, New York, who met within the fifth grade and began relationship in 1955 as youngsters. They’d three sons, with Josh the youngest by 13 years. She was a stay-at-home mom, Bob spent his profession as a civil engineer.

After Bob retired in 1998, they traveled across the nation in a motor residence for 9 years, then in 2007 began splitting time between Florida and North Carolina — six months at an RV park in The Sunshine State, six months with Josh, who again then was dwelling within the Northlake space.

Perhaps 10 years in the past, Bob started to note that Betty had taken to not trying her pals within the eye when she talked to them. She additionally, he says, “was continually referring to me for verification of what was being stated.” One other signal: He ran the bingo sport within the park, and he or she had all the time helped him depend the cash; however she began having hassle counting it.

Then in 2014, Betty was identified with lung most cancers, in order that they determined to maneuver in with Josh completely for the sake of having the ability to have consistency in her medical care. Within the means of relocating, they came upon she had kidney most cancers, too. Each cancers have been efficiently eliminated by way of surgical procedure.

(Bob says earlier than these surgical procedures, she’d additionally had a hip substitute and a few different procedures that required anesthesia; and he factors out — as has the Nationwide Institutes of Well being — that some research counsel publicity to anesthetics might improve the danger of Alzheimer’s.)

From that time, the downward spiral was regular.

There have been confounding behaviors, like throughout a cruise in early 2016, when Bob and Josh struggled to get Betty to cease continually shuffling or transferring round necessary gadgets of their cabin. However there have been additionally actually horrifying occasions, like at Disneyland in California in February 2017, when she advised Bob she was going to the restroom and simply plain wandered off, inflicting the state to concern a Silver Alert.

By roughly the beginning of the pandemic, Betty’s reminiscence loss and different cognitive difficulties had turn into all-consuming limiters.

“She’s been a unique individual for 2 or three years,” Josh provides. “In order that was undoubtedly a tragic course of, coming to phrases with it. After which ultimately you attain the purpose the place it’s a must to embrace it.”


It was utterly natural.

The Pettits have been on trip final yr within the Myrtle Seashore space for Thanksgiving, and one of many bedrooms of their rental home had a full-length mirror that Betty occurred to find proper earlier than her bedtime. It was clear that Betty thought her reflection was one other individual. It was additionally clear Betty was completely satisfied to satisfy this new individual. So Josh began recording a video together with his telephone, he says, as a result of “I believed that that was cute.” “I can’t keep in mind her identify,” Betty says as she appears to be like at herself, smiling.

“That’s Betty,” Josh will be heard saying.

“I’m Betty,” she says.

“Effectively, she’s Betty, too,” Josh replies.

Betty laughs, smiles at herself, high-fives her reflection, and says to it: “OK. Alright. We bought that settled. Now I’m gonna get a very good evening’s sleep. Thanks.”

Josh posted the video on each Fb and TikTok (together with the caption “Betty Pettit made a brand new good friend on the seaside”) on the night of Nov. 23, 2021.

“I feel we woke as much as 9,000 views on it,” he remembers. “Which was undoubtedly out of the norm. I couldn’t imagine it. Then I stored getting feedback, and it simply stored rising and rising.” Earlier than he went to mattress on the twenty fourth, in one other put up to Fb declaring that the video had been seen one million instances, he closed with this kicker: “As we strategy Thanksgiving, let’s all be like Betty, and sort to at least one one other.”

After that, Josh remembers, “individuals wished extra movies. … ‘We’d like extra Betty! We’d like extra Betty!’”

He posted 4 extra movies of Betty on the twenty fifth — together with one other that may ultimately go viral, that includes Bob making Betty bounce by placing a chilly bottle of water on her arm — then 4 extra on the twenty sixth.

And ever since, he’s posted a gradual food plan of movies starring his mother and their every day lives.

In December 2021, Josh was contacted by a reporter at The Each day Mail in London, which wrote a narrative about Betty and the mirror video. On Christmas Eve final yr, the pastor at their church, West Church in Mooresville, highlighted the video in her sermon. “She by no means actually will get the attention that it’s her,” Rev. Andrea Smith stated, “but she gives her kindness, and love, and style.”

Bob and Josh have been flabbergasted, at first.

“I couldn’t work out why individuals could be interested by it,” Bob says. “However then I suppose we started to appreciate the way it was nice for consciousness.” “Yeah,” Josh says. “we realized we had the chance to really shine a lightweight on this illness that lots of people cope with however that plenty of different individuals don’t find out about. In the event you haven’t had first-hand expertise, you don’t perceive. And other people legitimately requested questions, like, ‘Does she actually not know that’s herself within the mirror? Is that this pretend?’”

There was additionally this one, nevertheless: Is that this applicable?


Josh says it’s uncommon, however that he often hears from individuals who say one thing to the impact of: You’re exploiting her. She wouldn’t need these movies on the market.

Or, when he asks her questions in movies that may in any other case be painfully easy to reply (for instance, “How outdated are you?”: You shouldn’t worsen her.)

On high of that, after Betty began receiving a trickle of presents from followers earlier this yr, after Josh arrange the PO field, after the trickle turned a deluge, and after he took to posting movies of her opening the presents, a number of individuals cautioned him: It’s essential to tempo it and never overwhelm her.

“All people’s an skilled,” Josh says. “However till you’re dwelling it — , like, we all know what’s greatest for her, and we all know that she’s completely satisfied. And all of the stuff —” he turns to his mother “— you’ve gotten an enormous kick out of it. …

“We had a bit stretch final evening the place we opened a bunch of issues and it was like Christmas. She loved it. ‘Ohhhh, that is good… Who despatched that?’ And we simply say, ‘It’s certainly one of your followers,’ or ‘certainly one of your pals on the web.’ And she or he goes, ‘Wow!’ She enjoys the eye.”

They’d wish to hold issues that approach, however in addition they know they’re operating out of time.

Betty, who turned 85 on Dec. 1, is now within the ultimate stage of her illness. At this level, she wants assist dressing herself, slicing up her meals, and utilizing the lavatory, amongst a bunch of different duties the remainder of us take without any consideration. She’s fallen in and round the home a number of instances up to now yr, and whereas she’s prevented critical harm, her threat for falls stays vital.

Sooner or later sooner slightly than later, she probably gained’t be capable to transfer round on her personal in any respect, gained’t be capable to converse or make herself understood, and may need problem swallowing meals.

“It bothers me sure instances,” Bob replies, when requested concerning the emotional toll he has endured watching his childhood sweetheart undergo this. “I feel again to the way in which she was. And —”

He takes a protracted pause, earlier than including, merely: “That bothers me.”

What comforts each him and his son, although, is the truth that Betty is at residence with them and never in a long-term care facility. They’ve a caregiver who comes to assist out a number of days per week to spell Bob, who’s in any other case typically on his personal in the course of the week since Josh has a daily full-time job. However their aim is to maintain Betty at residence for so long as they probably can.

They usually have a military of Betty followers cheering them on.

“Lots of people reward us for a way we reply and make her completely satisfied and the way we work together along with her,” says Josh, who has posted greater than 200 TikTok movies of Betty because the mirror one (which presently sits at greater than 25 million views). “Individuals will say, ‘That is the position mannequin for a way you could work together with dementia sufferers.’”

“They are saying there’s plenty of love in the home, between the three of us,” provides Bob, who with Betty additionally has a 60-year-old son within the Charlotte space and a 62-year-old son in Charleston.

“After which,” Josh continues, “the instance of preserving her residence, these are issues that different individuals can aspire in direction of. Retaining her residence, preserving her completely satisfied, interacting in enjoyable methods. Typically you gotta reside in her second. These have been classes we needed to study early on — you may say the sky is blue all you need, but when in her world the sky is inexperienced, typically the sky simply must be inexperienced. … You enter into her world, and reside in it.”

“There’s lots of people on the market,” he says, “that aren’t as lucky as Betty and I having the ability to reside with Josh, and hold her right here. Different individuals have advised us, ‘We needed to put Mother in a house, and I reside 100 miles away.’ … So we’re very lucky in having the ability to reside right here with Josh — and hopefully, we are able to keep right here until the top.”

Josh nods again, appears to be like at his mother and smiles.

“I’m glad you reside right here,” he says to her. “Are you glad you reside right here?”

“Mm-hmm,” Betty replies. “Oh good,” Josh says. Betty pauses for a beat, then asks him: “Do I’ve a alternative?”

“In all probability not,” Josh says, and so they each begin laughing. “I feel you’re caught right here.”

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