New video series explores life with dementia

UW’s Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program (MAREP) recently collaborated with director Chris Wynn for a new video series that follows Mary Beth Wighton, a 45-year old woman living with dementia. The series follows Wighton as she searches for information about dementia, and follows three people who share their first hand experiences.

MAREP is a non-profit charitable organization within UW, which according to associate director of education Jessica Luh Kim, makes it an “innovative research education program.” The program takes research and “translates” it into educational tools and resources that can benefit those living with dementia, their family members, as well as professionals.

“We work with people living with dementia in the research that we do, [and] we also work with family members, and professionals. But we have a number of educational tools and resources that people living with dementia can use to help them live well,” she said.

Part of the reason the video series was put together was to show those living with dementia that it is possible to live well with the condition, and that it is crucial to move forward rather than slip into depression, which often occurs.

The video series, <em>A New Voice: Living Well With Dementia</em>, is an idea that surfaced two years ago when Kim was looking towards cinema for educational tools. What she found was a lack of film related material that factually represented what it&rsquo;s like to live with dementia.

&ldquo;What I found was that the video resources unintentionally reinforced very negative stereotypes or misperceptions about what it&rsquo;s like to live with dementia,&rdquo; she said.

Kim said that MAREP has spent the last 20 years trying to change the perceptions and misunderstandings about dementia, saying that they only add to the problem by a certain stigma or fear. She contacted Montreal-based director Chris Wynn, who had previously directed a film on Alzheimer&rsquo;s called <em>Forgetful Not Forgotten</em>, as well as some of MAREP&rsquo;s partners living with dementia. Among those contacted was Mary Beth Wighton, one of MAREP&rsquo;s newest partners.

&ldquo;She just got diagnosed in 2012, and she really wanted to learn how she could live well. So we thought it would be a really neat idea for her to meet some of our more established partners.&rdquo;

Some of MAREP&rsquo;s established partners have been living with dementia for many years, and the video series follows Wighton as she hears their stories, and finds out how they have learned to live well.

&ldquo;As someone newly diagnosed with dementia, it was important for me to know that this was not the end. The people I met while filming the series gave me new hope and showed me that I can not only cope, but thrive,&rdquo; said Wighton.

Kim says the point of the video is to give hope to those living with dementia, while also offering the video as one of the many tools that MAREP offers.

&ldquo;The whole theme across the video really is to showcase that even though you have dementia, it doesn&rsquo;t mean life is over,&rdquo; said Kim. &ldquo;This video series works to broaden and change the negative lens surrounding the disease. It shows the possibilities and gifts people have even after a diagnosis.&rdquo;

There are five video segments in the series, each segment being about 10 minutes in length. The series, as well as other educational tools, workshops, and other resources can be found on the MAREP&rsquo;s UW website.