West Hartford resident Lisa Polce lost her father to Alzheimer’s in May 2011. Before his passing, Lisa struggled with the caretaking duties that accompany the devastating disease. An irreversible decline in cognitive abilities, Alzheimer’s severely diminishes an individual’s memory along with affecting one’s behavior and capacity to walk, talk, and perform basic bodily functions. “The hardest part was watching the deterioration,” Lisa said. “Alzheimer’s robbed him of his ability to function and live.”
Lisa was able to enlist the help of Companions for Living to provide a live-in caretaker for her father, Victor. Companions for Living is a West Hartford based agency that provides home care services for seniors and people with disabilities. Lisa is thankful for the help they provided. Given the bond between a family caretaker and the loved one, witnessing a loved one's descent through the stages of Alzheimer’s can take an incredible emotional and physical toll on the family caretaker. It isn’t an experience you would wish on your worst enemy.
Unfortunately, Lisa’s experience is a common one and will become increasingly common in the future. Baby Boomers are retiring, and Alzheimer’s is a disease with a very strong correlation to advancing age. 13% of people 65 and older are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; a statistic that increases to a distressingly high 45% of the population for those 85 and over. Modern medicine may has given us the benefit of longer lifespans, but with the longer lifespans comes a drastic increase in the amount of people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. If it were a Russian novel, it would be some kind of Faustian bargain.
Alzheimer’s is a disease currently without a cure or any viable way of slowing it down. Fortunately, there have been some promising signs to combatting the problem. The hope is that by diagnosing the issue before the onset of Alzheimer’s there may be a way to stopping or slowing down the disease. Doctors are working on tests that may spot an increased likelihood that a person will develop the disease later in life. Organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association are helping spearhead this research. On Thursday, September 27th Companions for Living will sponsor a fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association Connecticut Chapter.
The 4th Annual Vino and a Show will be held at Playhouse on Park (244 Park Road, West Hartford) and takes place from 6:00-9:00 pm. The cost is $30 per person, and it includes a cocktail hour with wine, beer, non-alcoholic options, and hors d’oeuvres donated by California Pizza Kitchen. There will also be a teacup raffle. The cocktail hour will be followed with a performance by Sea Tea Improv. Performing in the style of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Sea Tea Improv will incorporate audience suggestions to create characters and scenes on the spot. It’s vino and a show.
Alzheimer’s is an incredibly serious issue, so it’s nice to be able to help out a cause while also having a good time. Vino and a Show is a chance, in whatever small way, to move us closer to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s or at least slowing it down. There are not a lot of win-wins in life, but having an enjoyable time while also being able to support an important cause is one of them. “It’s a fun night out and you know that your money is going to something valuable to the community,” states Julianne Roth, president for Companions for Living. People looking to attend should contact the company (860-882-0802; firstname.lastname@example.org) to be placed on the guest list.
Patty O’Brian, the North Central Regional Director for the Alzhemier’s Association (Connecticut Chapter), commented that Vino and a Show is one of her favorite events of the year. She also emphasized its ability to raise awareness of the 70,000 people in Connecticut with Alzheimer’s, many in their 40s and 50s. Taking place on September 27th, the event falls at the tail-end of Alzheimer’s Month. “Every year it is well attended. There is always a great mix between health care
professionals, general supporters, and those who have lived the journey.”
Lisa Polce is one of the countless people who have lived the journey. Inquiring about her experience, she was open about the stresses of Alzheimer’s and its effect on her as a family caregiver. How it can cause a person to feel alone. “You forget about yourself. It’s very hard. An event like Vino and a Show helps because you can have a conversation with someone going through the same issues. You can touch them on the arm and let them know you understand.”
Despite all the difficulties surrounding the death of her father, Lisa realizes all the good that came from the experience. “I am a better person because he had been in my life. It is because of him that I have so much passion for the cause.” After she attends Vino and a Show on September 27th, Lisa will be participating in Hartford’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s event on October 14th. “It’s not going to be one show, one event. But it makes a difference.”