Watching a loved one suffer from Alzheimer’s disease is tough on adults.
It’s hell on children, who often can’t grasp why a grandparent is fully aware of their surroundings one minute and can’t remember their name the next.
To combat the confusion, the Alzheimer Society Thunder Bay is staging Ottawa playwright J.C. Sulzenko’s What My Grandma Means to Say at schools throughout the city and into the region, made possible through a grant by the Thunder Bay Community Foundation.
“Compared to your normal public health presentation, this is a bit more engaging, in the sense that it has the performance art component, as well as the visual arts component, which allows the kids to reflect on the presentation and creates something really beautiful in the end,” said Nicole Armstrong, a community engagement assistant with Alzheimer Society Thunder Bay.
The play centres around an 11-year-old boy, Jake, who visits his grandmother at the nursing home where she lives.
Grandma doesn’t recognize Jake at first, and seems confused when he offers her a chocolate chip cookie, something she claims to have never eaten in the past.
Jake then suggests they go outside to look at the birds. While outside Grandma points out a cardinal in a nearby tree, a brief moment of lucidity in which she appears to remember her entire life, including her grandson’s name.
Jake runs to phone his mother, but when he comes back, the cloud of Alzheimer’s has fallen over Grandma again, which angers Jake to the point of yelling at his grandmother.
Andrew Paulsen, who plays Jake, said the play is told from the perspective of a child in the hope they’ll be able to better understand that might be happening with their own relatives.
“It doesn’t give any clear answers, but I think it would help as a kid if you were going through the same thing to see somebody else going through it. You can relate. You’ve had the same experiences, you could have the same frustrations and you’re not the only person out there going through it.
“It just shows that you’re not alone in what you’re facing,” he said.
The project also includes the creation of memory quilts with the children, and is accompanied by a public health nurse, who will field any questions the audience might have about the disease, which afflicts more than 3,000 people in Northwestern Ontario alone.
A public showing of the play will also be held on March 25 at Glacier Ridge. It’s free of charge, but pre-registration is required by calling 343-0242.
Click here to report a typo or error
You must log in to add comments.
Create a new account
Remember me next time.