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If you had to write a letter telling the world what it is like to live with dementia what would you say?
This was the question posed to Dementia Advocates who performed in a Sydney production held in July called To Whom I May Concern.
The show was based on the premise of people living with dementia reading a letter to someone about their experiences, thoughts and feelings about living with dementia. The stories were interwoven with live music performed by the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
Cast member and Dementia Australia Advisory Committee Chair, Bobby Redman said she was initially hesitant to get involved in the show but was grateful she gave it a go.
“When I first was approached about the performance I wasn’t sure it was something I wanted to participate in,” Bobby, who lives with frontotemporal dementia, said.
“After a bit of persuasion however I decided to get involved and I am very glad that I did.
“The process of preparing for the show gave me the opportunity to process and reflect on my experiences which was invaluable.”
Reflecting on diagnosis through art and creative
To pull together the show all cast members decided to write a letter to someone different with Bobby choosing to write her letter to the doctors involved in her diagnosis.
“My letter is about the struggles I had in obtaining a dementia diagnosis,” Bobby said.
“Doctors would not take me seriously or put my symptoms down to me working too hard but I knew something was not quite right.
“Writing the letter and preparing for the performance gave me the chance to process what happened and to also to advocate for people living with dementia which is very important to me.”
The power of stories and music
Bobby said the music in the show was composed by members of the Australian Chamber Orchestra after they listened to the cast members letters.
“The music composed was incredible,” Bobby said.
“They played out what we were saying through the music and I thought it was just amazing and very powerful.
“I hope that everyone who watched the show was really impacted by the performance and the combination of both elements together – both the letters, the stories and the music.”
From the stages of New York
The production performed in Sydney on 27 July was based on an initial production that first ran in New York under the same name and came to be when registered nurse Maureen Matthews PhD decided to ask the question “What is it like to live with Alzheimer’s?”
Tamar Krebs, Founder and Executive Director of Group Homes Australia initiated the Australian version of the production alongside event co-host Dr Gail Kenning from the University of New South Wales. Dr Kenning’s work focuses on the intersection of art, design, and creativity and how these can contribute to health and wellbeing, with a particular focus on ageing and dementia.
Dementia Australia was a presenting partner of To Whom I May Concern.
Photo by: Maria Boyadgis
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