Purple Angels work to make Maple Fall Fest dementia friendly event
For the Hub City Times
MARSHFIELD – A Marshfield nonprofit is working to make Marshfield’s Maple Fall Fest a dementia-friendly community event.
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,” he explained. “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 added.
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.
According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, there are nearly six 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,” Seubert stated. “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,” he said.
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.
“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, adding that it can be equally difficult for caregivers.
“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.”
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.
Marshfield’s Maple Fall Fest runs Sept. 14-15 at Wildwood Park, 1800 South Roddis Ave. For more information, visit http://visitmarshfield.com/events/maple-fall-fest.