By Mary Kay Baum –
The movie “Still Alice” did not show community members engaging positively with Alice. Instead, we see Alice and her family mostly struggling alone with an unusually fast moving dementia. Each family member appears alone and overwhelmed. Viewers could easily fear that Alzheimer’s journeys always have to be lonely, isolating and without meaning.
In the movie we don’t see Alice relaxing and being herself during a Memory Cafe that she helped plan. We don’t see communities being trained on becoming better friends with persons with cognitive changes. We don’t see even a glimmer of connected inter-generational communities.
I think we should all watch the movie “Still Alice.” But as we watch we should think of the myriad of ways that an aware, trained, and loving community could have made this family’s journey more connected to their own journeys. And how a good sequel should be on the big screen that shows real community engagement.
I imagine a sequel placed ten years later, after Alice has died. The care partner daughter is now herself experiencing some symptoms like becoming easily startled, losing her balance, and having trouble sleeping. She hears about the sport “crew” during a memory cafe. She decides to join the rowing team that a local Assisted Living Home is opening up to the public. She also loves sharing her acting tips as a volunteer at a “Time for Us” camp. Her niece and nephew enroll and learn a lot at the “Time for Us” camp. The niece and nephew then model to their own mother some ways in which she could better “friend” her sister.
Let’s imagine more sequels, each out of our real life experiences. Then we will be getting closer to a script that will be worth an Oscar.
Mary Kay Baum was diagnosed in 2005 with Mild Cognitive Impairment, likely of the early onset Alzheimer’s type that runs in her family. Since that time, she and many others have continued to lead the charge to provide support for everyone with dementia. They do this in many ways and we encourage you to go to the ForMemory website. In addition, join her and many other experts in the field at the WALA Spring Conference on Wednesday, March 18 from 12:30 – 4:30 at the Kalahari for a comprehensive look at how Dementia Friendly Communities can help provide support for those in your own home town and to provide tools that she refers to below. Help make Mary Kay’s visioning become a reality. Mary Kay and her sisters will be at the Conference on Thursday, March 19 for you to review their powerful books, materials and moving photographs.