Fox Valley Memory Project offers help for dementia patients

APPLETON – According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease. Thousands of those people live in our area.

In the Fox Valley there is a growing movement to take the stigma away from dementia and help those suffering from it.

Lisa Cerasoli took care of her grandmother, an Alzheimer’s patient, for several years. During that time she wrote the book “As Nora Jo Fades Away,” which sprouted a documentary, “14 Days with Alzheimer’s.”

“Along with all the tragedies that do come with Alzheimer’s Disease there are a lot of funnies and foibles and I just thought, ‘I just want to write about all of it,'” explained Cerasoli.

Like the time her grandmother drew in her eyebrows with blue sharpie.

“You really have to wake up every day and just sort of let go of the possibility of what might happen, because anything can happen. Let go of your reality and step into theirs,” said Cerasoli.

Cerasoli showed her documentary at the grand opening of the Fox Valley Memory Project’s Memory Loss Resource Center Thursday. The center is open some weekdays to help those facing all stages of dementia, which can be a very scary experience.

“Terribly frightening, yes, because there’s so much stigma attached to it in our society,” explained the project’s research consultant Susan McFadden.

The memory project’s goal is to fight that stigma. The resource center is grant-funded and a place to stop in to learn more about dementia and what assistance is available.

“Ask questions, get help, get advice, get information,” McFadden explained.

The center also provides social activities like arts and crafts, writing and sing-alongs.

“There is a lot of research that shows people who have more social engagement experience the progression of the disease more slowly,” explained McFadden.

But the center and activities are for caregivers too.

Cerasoli told us she knows help is necessary.

“People volunteer to help and you have to say yes,” she said.

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