People Living With Dementia Tell Their Stories in ‘To Whom I May Concern’
About 75,000 people in Connecticut live with dementia. And in a stage production in Hartford, five of them are telling their stories. To Whom I May Concern is a readers-theater style performance – and part of an effort to invite those living with cognitive change to educate others about what they’re experiencing.
Bob Savage received his Alzheimer’s diagnosis three years ago. He said each script for To Whom I May Concern begins with people meeting in a safe place.
“There’s no stigma there,” he said. “These groups are run by us … who have dementia … there’s nobody there telling us what to say.”
Personal storytelling and developing a script are not easy, said Savage.
“But we’re learning so much from each other,” he said. “This whole thing of helping each other afterwards is really a key element.”
To Whom I May Concern is a project of Live Well, in Southington, which provides services for those living with dementia in both residential and community settings. CEO Michael Smith said their mission is to reimagine how we age.
“One of the things that sets us apart in a movement to consider how we view people living with dementia differently,” he said, “is to invite them into the conversation and to partner with them around what it is that they’re looking for.”
Counseling services director Dan Belonick says people who come to see To Whom I May Concern often leave with new ideas on what it means to grow older, such as confronting biases and perceptions about dementia, aging, and living well.
Savage worked in the alcohol and drug field for a number of years, “and everything that I’ve done in the past has prepared me for where I am now,” he said. “That’s rare. How many people, when you retire, are able to use all of your past experience to do something that you enjoy so much?”
Savage says he hopes To Whom I May Concern will inspire others living with cognitive change to tell their stories - and trust that they too can actively support, advocate and educate their communities about dementia.