Gerda Saunders’ Feelings About Her Dementia in Relation to Michael Rossato-Bennett’s Music and Memory Documentary “Alive Inside”

This video consists of an excerpt from the panel discussion about Michael Rossato-Bennett’s documentary Alive Inside arranged by the Utah Commission on Aging and hosted by Salt Lake Acting Company in 2015. Gerda Saunders, who has dementia, was one of the panelists. She speaks about her feelings regarding  Alive Inside , which tells of Dan Cohen’s work of bringing music to people with advanced dementia and how it stimulates their memories. The full panel discussion is available here.

The video excerpt in which I speak is about 15 minutes long. I ask you to bear with me, because I think that after watching the arc of my argument and the sine wave of my feelings you will see why My Dementia (At The Moment) Is Not As Awful As The VideoWest Film Downhill From There Might Make It Seem–as I explain below.

Just so you don’t mourn my intellectual decline for longer than I do: yes, Downhill From There was depressing to me too. From your many kind and supportive comments, I learned that many of you cried as you watched it, as did I. That is not to say this is not a great film—it is. It tells an important truth, but it is only one of my truths. Peter and I did not stay sad for long—just for the few minutes it took to roll up the carpet, start the music, and dance it away. Remember that we both have had years—it is now five years since my diagnosis of microvascular disease—to mourn and accept and go on. That we can do so is a gift that we were handed in our genetic make-up, that is, our emotional constitution enables, in Reinhold Niebuhr’s words, “the serenity/ to accept the things I cannot change;/ courage to change the things I can;/ and wisdom to know the difference.”

My acceptance of my always-increasing dementia is not blind. As the VideoWest film series shows—and this is only the tip of the iceberg—my family and I have discussed and continue to consider our situation in depth and have come to acceptance, understanding, and the resolve to make every day count. Of course the one or the other of us now and then gets into a puddle of grief and frustration, but we help each other not stay there too long. In the meantime, we have a lot of laughs. The panel discussion excerpt shows some of our macabre humor.