The Remember Project: Making Dementia A Community Priority

About 50 people attended a recent performance of “Riding the Waves,” a one-act play that looked at the impact of dementia on the person who suffers with it and those who suffer right along with them -- family, loved ones and friends.

The play, which is one of three that deals with the different aspects and impact of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, opened on what appeared to be a tranquil time on the beach with Isabelle and her son David. But shortly it became clear that there was someone else on the beach, at least for Isabelle. David her son sometimes became her husband David and their interaction provided a glimpse into Isabelle’s confusing and difficult experience.

Enter Isabelle’s daughter who her mother thinks is playing in the surf but who in reality is now her mother’s caregiver. She loves her mother but is frustrated and worn out by a role she now plays.

The plays in Hudson are sponsored by the Christian Community Homes and Services, Hudson Hospital & Clinic in partnership with the St. Croix Valley Foundation and others.

Plans for the project coincide with efforts across St. Croix County to increase awareness of memory issues and the impact of dementia and to start a community conversation about an issue that will likely touch every family in some way or another.

Following the play, community activist and volunteer Dick Whitcomb facilitated a discussion with audience members about what they had just seen. Broken into smaller groups, they discussed the theme of the play and how Isabelle and her children interacted.

When people began to share their discussions with the larger group it became clear that many in the room had personal experience with dementia and its consequences.

Participants talked about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the condition. One woman said it helped to ask her mother how old she was whenever she visited. “It helped me to know how to talk with her when I was with her.” However difficult it may be, the consensus seemed to be to accept that age as their reality at the time and “go with it.”

A longtime professional as well as personal caregiver gave the audience some guidance on how to approach a relative or friend with dementia. “It happens all the time. You visit grandma or an aunt or a parent and start by asking if they remember you or your kids. It puts them on the defensive right away. Better to go in and tell them who you are and who is with you. It helps everybody feel more comfortable.”

On participant said the name of the play, “Riding the Waves,” was an appropriate one, “except the wave never quite makes it to shore.”

The plays are being performed all over the St. Croix Valley. The final play in the series in Hudson is Nov. 18 at The Phipps Center beginning at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free.

Shelly DeStasio, customer relations coordinator for Christian Community Homes, said the experience of working on the project with others in the community has been very gratifying.

CCH Foundation chairman Judy Freund was familiar with the plays and thought that some performances could be arranged at area churches and other locations.

“That was March of 2014 and one thing led to another and here we are... 36 shows and 12 cities. It's so amazing how this has come to fruition...I never imagined it would be as big as it is.”

In addition to the St. Croix Valley Foundation, CCH and Hudson Hospital, support for the project came from the James and Judith Freund Fund of the Hudson Community Foundation, the Hugh J. Andersen Foundation, the Helen Daniels Bader Fund, the Aging and Disability Resource Center of St. Croix County and the Alzheimer’s Association.

In addition to The Remember Project, there are several other initiatives in the Hudson area and the county to raise awareness of memory issues and dementia and to offer assistance and support to those living with them.

They include:
--Memory Café, a safe and comfortable environment for those with memory loss and their caregivers. The café will feature speakers, education and activities. The Memory Café in Hudson is held at the YMCA, 2211 Vine St., the first Thursday of every month from 9:30-11 a.m. To pre-register call county Dementia Specialist Nancy Abrahamson at (715)381-4411 or email

--Dementia Conversation is designed to help families and caregivers talk with a family member or loved one about memory loss, going to the doctor, about safety issues like driving and living alone, as well as legal and financial issues. The conversation in Hudson is Tuesday,Oct. 27, at 10 a.m. at Hudson Hospital, 405 Stageline Road. Call (800)372-2333 for information.

--Memory Screening is free and confidential. There is no age requirement for the 15-minute appointment. The next screening in Hudson is Thursday, Nov. 12, at the YMCA from 12:30-2:45 p.m. To schedule an appointment call (800)372-2333. Those unable to make the screening, can call and schedule a home screening.

By Meg Heaton 26 October 2015 6:45 pm
Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. (715) 808-8604