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March 8, 2024

HERstory: Honoring the Journey of Individuals Living with Dementia

Category: Memory Care

Author: Kimberly Sandor, Memory Care Director

Women’s History Month

HERstory serves as a tribute to the unique journey, experiences, and contributions of an individual living with dementia. Each HERstory carries a rich past of memories, relationships, and accomplishments that define their identity. As dementia progresses, memories begin to fade. Preserving and sharing these narratives become invaluable in honoring the person affected and maintaining their dignity. At Vitalia Montrose, we believe in acknowledging and celebrating each individual’s life story. Through this approach, we affirm the inherent worth and complexity of those living with dementia. It allows us to transcend the limitations imposed by their condition.

Through storytelling, we bridge the gap between the past and the present. This fosters meaningful interactions and cultivates a sense of belonging for individuals living with dementia. By embracing their narratives with empathy and compassion, we counteract stigma, dispel misconceptions, and promote a culture of inclusivity and respect for individuals affected by dementia.

Below is a HERstory about one of the residents living in our Memory Care Neighborhood.

A vintage picture frame holding a cherished memory of Gretchen and her husband, frozen in time.

Gretchen K. is known as “Gee” to family and friends. She grew up in Tallmadge, OH, with her sister, Suzie, and her parents. They traveled all over the United States and fell in love with Colorado. Gee graduated from Tallmadge High School and attended Ohio University, where she became the life of the party. She sold her books on Fridays to fund her weekend antics and attempted to buy them back on Mondays in time for classes. Gee met her husband Denis through a friend while at college. The couple married and had five children.

Gee also mothered countless neighborhood kids, nurturing them with love and care as if they were her own. Her household was a fun place to be, always buzzing with activity and goofiness. She was the crafty mom, making clothes for all, stenciling walls, refinishing furniture, and a stellar volunteer at the kids’ schools. She is the creator of “Splotch,” a family favorite casserole dish made of whatever she could find in the household to feed her family. Her children never went without, and they never knew the lengths she went to make sure they had all they needed and more.

Cherished Memories with Grandchildren and Acts of Kindness

As her kids aged, Gee started babysitting and was also the caregiver to many grandchildren. Her sleepovers were epic and have left long-lasting memories for all her grandchildren and their friends. She always hosted scavenger hunts, played dolls with them, and even video games. An Oreo was always within reach, and all their favorite foods were on hand, just in case.

Photo of Gretchen, sitting in a chair with a pink shirt and green jacket.

If her kids, even as adults, needed cheering up, they would find a goofy toy and/or candy nearby, left on their doorstep, or sent through the mail.

Sharing the life story of someone living with dementia is not just an act of preserving memories; it’s an embodiment of compassion, understanding, and respect. By embracing their past, we honor their journey and provide valuable insights into who they are beyond the constraints of their condition through HERstory.

VITALIA® Montrose in Copley, OH offers independent senior apartments, assisted living, and memory care with a variety of services and a range of floor plan options. Amenities include restaurant dining, 24-hour bistro, concierge service, housekeeping, events and entertainment, personal care, transportation services, and more. Centrally located near Cleveland Clinic with convenient access to major shopping centers and attractions, including Mud Run Golf Course and Driving Range, Summit Mall, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Summit County Metro Park, Stan Hywet, and Hale Farm.

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