What is Wine, Women, and Dementia?
The feature length documentary Wine, Women, and Dementia is a universal story about the dementia journey—from diagnosis to the end-of-life—through the unique perspective of dementia family caregivers. The documentary encompasses diagnosis to death, heartbreak to hilarity, and lots of love and laughter in between.
In 2016, I became a 24/7 family caregiver to my mother, Gloria, who was living with vascular dementia. I was grateful for the online camaraderie of other dementia family caregivers who, like me, decided there was no surviving this long journey if isolation, despair, and sorrow were the go-to emotions. We came together virtually in our shared quest for strategies to rebuff the “continuous tragedy” narrative for ourselves and our dementia loved ones.
After my mother passed in 2021, I was inspired by my time with these caregiving warriors to go on the road, meet them in person, and film our “tales from the trenches.” The documentary is the result of my month-long adventure and contains first-hand accounts of the laughter, despair, joy, and devotion from those of us who have, and are, living the experience. What interested me the most was exploring the indomitable spirit of human nature, both the caregiver and their dementia loved ones, that emerges while stumbling ever onward towards death.
What do you hope viewers take away from Wine, Women, and Dementia?
While the subject matter is deeply serious, my goal was to make an entertaining and engaging film to appeal to an audience well beyond the 16 million dementia family caregivers in the United States. I hope to continue telling dementia tales until audiences come out the other side of the story with more compassion, less fear, and greater acceptance and support for the caregivers and dementia folks who may come into their lives. And I hope my fellow family caregivers everywhere finally feel seen, heard, and celebrated.
Who inspired you to grapple with dementia? What did that experience look like?
My mom was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2010. While my father vowed to keep his sweetheart at home and take care of her until the day she died, he passed away suddenly of pancreatic cancer in 2016. My sister and I took over Mom’s care, keeping her in her own home (with a brief, unsuccessful stint at memory care), until the day she died. The experience was the toughest thing I’ve ever been through; I had spectacular caregiver fails and some pretty awesome caregiver successes, and eventually let Mom go on to her next adventure when her time came.
How has working on dementia-related art has changed you?
With all that dementia took from me, it also gave me the courage to finally lead the storytelling. First with my blog, Stumped Town Dementia, a creative outlet that helped me process the dementia journey. Second with this feature-length documentary.
A long-time supporting member of the storytelling industry, there was no way I was not going to tell this story and to show caregivers that their stories matter too. I had just enough creative experience to know I could do it, and enough ignorance not to be afraid.
How has Wine, Women, and Dementia been received?
Wine, Women, and Dementia will spend the first half of the year on the festival circuit, with public release later in 2023. Until the public release, we are booking hosted/private, community, and educational screenings (see the film). One such screening at The Care Colloquium conference in November received a standing ovation.
What has pleased me most after each screening is that the “Q&A” doesn’t involve a lot of questions and answers, the audience members simply want to share their stories! They are eager to tell a tale of their experience that correlates to the film. It’s as if the film opens the floodgates for audiences to spew their horrible and hilarious dementia adventures. As one caregiver remarked, “It gives dementia family caregivers the inspiration to live out loud!” I couldn’t ask for a better outcome.
This work is dedicated to: Wine, Women, and Dementia is a celebration of dementia family caregivers. And the dementia folks we love.
Find more from Kitty Norton on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.