Maple Fall Fest First Dementia-Friendly Community Event in Marshfield

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Marshfield Area Purple Angels to Host Designated Rest Area

Marshfield — A local nonprofit group is helping make Maple Fall Fest the first dementia-friendly community event in Marshfield.

[Related: A Guide to Maple Fall Fest.]

The Marshfield Area Purple Angels will have a designated rest area at Wildwood Park for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, and also serve as a source of respite for their caregivers.

According to Doug Seubert, Executive Director of Marshfield Area Purple Angels, designated rest areas at community events are helpful for people with dementia and their caregivers. “It is common for someone with dementia to become overstimulated, agitated, anxious, and even confused when among a crowd of people,” Seubert said. “Having a designated rest area that is a little removed from all the noise and activity can help a person with Alzheimer’s disease calm down and relax.”

It can also help reduce the likelihood of challenging behaviors, Seubert said. “These behaviors, or catastrophic reactions, can happen quickly. A person with dementia can become overwhelmed amidst the noise and crowd of people and become angry or insist you take them home, even though you may have just arrived at an event.”

It is because of these behaviors that many caregivers and family members forgo events like Maple Fall Fest. “Some caregivers, usually a family member or spouse, might really want to attend a community event, but end up staying home over fear of how their loved one with dementia might react or behave in public,” Seubert said.

Another challenging behavior that worries caregivers is the tendency of people with dementia to wander off and become lost, even in familiar surroundings. “Wildwood Park is a large area, and in a crowd, people can get easily separated and it may not take long before your loved one is out of your sight,” Seubert said.

Having a designated rest area that also serves as a source of respite for caregivers is an important element of a dementia-friendly community event. “We will have several trained volunteers at our area, so those who are caring for someone with dementia can leave their loved ones with us while they take time to explore all the vendors and events at Fall Fest,” Seubert said.

“We will have a variety of activities, including games, music, and craft projects to engage those with dementia, giving their caregivers a break to walk around the park knowing their loved ones will be watched and cared for in a safe environment,” Seubert said. The Marshfield Area Purple Angels hosts monthly memory cafes in the community for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. “For Fall Fest, we are just expanding our memory café model and providing support for family caregivers.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, there are nearly 6 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease or other type of dementia in the United States. “That’s about 12 percent of the population aged 65 years and over,” said Seubert. “If we look at the population of Marshfield and surrounding area, that’s about 1,200 people living with dementia in our local communities.”

According to Seubert, as many as 80 percent of those with dementia are still living at home, either alone or with family members and other caregivers. “They shop in our stores and businesses, eat at restaurants, go to church, visit parks, and attend community events like Maple Fall Fest. This is why it is important for businesses, organizations, and community events to be dementia-friendly.”

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services defines a dementia-friendly community as a place where people living with dementia are supported to live a high quality life with meaning, purpose, and value. Marshfield Area Purple Angels has been working for the last 5 years to help make Marshfield a more dementia-friendly community.

“We start by raising awareness,” Seubert said, “and by providing information and education not only to dementia caregivers, but to anyone interested in learning more about this movement.” The Purple Angels will have a variety of free educational materials available at their booth at Maple Fall Fest.

“We also educate local businesses and community organizations about how to better serve people with dementia and support family caregivers,” Seubert said. “We are proud to be partnering with Marshfield Convention and Visitors Bureau to make Maple Fall Fest the first large-scale dementia-friendly community event in Marshfield.”

And for Seubert, there is a personal motivation behind these efforts. He was the primary caregiver for his mother, Marge Seubert, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007. “At the time, I didn’t know anyone else who was a full time caregiver of someone with dementia,” Seubert said. “I also was not aware of resources and support available in the community. That’s why I want to make sure others know that groups like the Purple Angels exist and that we are here to help.”

“My mom enjoyed attending craft fairs, and Maple Fall Fest was one of her favorite events. As her dementia progressed it became more difficult for her to get out in the community,” Seubert said. It can be equally difficult for caregivers, Seubert added.

“Being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be all-consuming. I found that I couldn’t always do the things I enjoyed because I’d think ‘What about Mom?’ knowing I couldn’t leave her alone. So I stopped attending a lot of community events because I couldn’t find someone to stay with my mom or I would worry that she wouldn’t be able to tolerate being around a lot of people and noise. We ended up staying home by ourselves a lot.”

And for Seubert, that is another side effect of dementia. “As caregivers, we isolate our loved ones to protect them, and in the process we isolate ourselves, and this leads to depression and caregiver burnout.”

After his mother passed away in 2014, Seubert and his siblings founded Marshfield Area Purple Angels to help other families in the community as well as honor their mother’s memory. “We want to let others who are living with dementia, and those who care for them, know that life doesn’t have to be put on hold. By making Maple Fall Fest a dementia-friendly event, we are providing an opportunity for them to find some joy in the midst of a joy-less disease.”

For more information about Marshfield Area Purple Angels, you can call Doug Seubert at 715-383-0897, or visit www.marshfieldpurpleangels.org.

A Guide to Maple Fall Fest