The cast of “Unforgettable” during an emotional moment when the family begins to suspect that the matriarch, Mama D (LeJeune Thompson), may be suffering from a form of dementia (DJ Corey Photography via Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company)
The cast of “Unforgettable” during an emotional moment when the family begins to suspect that the matriarch, Mama D (LeJeune Thompson), may be suffering from a form of dementia (DJ Corey Photography via Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company)

In the not-so-distant past, when grandparents, older aunts and uncles, even our parents, began to forget names or places, misplace or lose items, or found it increasingly difficult to perform tasks that had once been routine, we often attributed these and other behavioral changes to old age — even referring to the decline as “normal.” 

But with advances in medicine, experts have determined that there’s nothing normative about declining mental abilities or inexplicable shifts in behavior that equate to the aging process. 

Whether we chose to admit it or not, a physician’s examination will often point to the root cause of the problem or problems as either Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia serving as the culprit. 

As this writer knows all too well, when Alzheimer’s took hold of both my stepfather and mother, it would be a five-year struggle during which they became more like strangers than the parents I once knew and loved. 

But how do we come to terms with these changes if they begin to manifest themselves in the lives of our loved ones? What are the signs? What resources can we access? Even more, as caregivers, should be feel all alone or are their others going through the same struggles? 

Mama D (LeJeune Thompson) communicates with the Lord in a rendition of “Amazing Grace.” (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

These and other questions continue to be addressed and answered in a play written by Garrett Davis, “Unforgettable,” performed on select stages in cities that have included Greensboro and Charlotte and most recently included Bowie, Maryland, at the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 18. 

The test market for the play will conclude in Milwaukee later this month before making its touring debut in Los Angeles early next year under the umbrella of G. Davis Productions and Films. 

Thanks to a partnership formed between Davis and the Alzheimer’s Association – the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research – it’s hoped that those who see the production will leave better educated about the disease and other forms of dementia as well as the kinds of resources and support which organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association provides. 

Davis, who wrote, directed and produced the play, said it represents reflections that come from his heart after losing his grandmother to the disease. 

He approached the Alzheimer’s Association and Dr. Carl Hill, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for the Association with a mission in mind. He wanted to find a way to debunk the inaccurate beliefs about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias which now threaten the African-American community at a rate two times greater than white Americans. 

It should be noted that Hispanics fare only slightly better who stand about one and one-half times more likely than whites to have Alzheimer’s and other dementias. 

The play features a stellar cast including American Idol finalist Scott Savol and hit gospel musician and artist LeJuene Thompson. But each cast member brings something special to the stage. Even more, the production, with singing that will make your heart soar, showcases the effects of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. It further points to the importance of understanding early detection and participating in clinical trials while introducing the audience to the plethora of resources offered by the Alzheimer’s Association. 

If Alzheimer’s has ever struck your family, be prepared to shed a few tears – as this writer found himself doing, particularly as the play moved towards its emotional conclusion. 

Bravo Garrett Davis and the Alzheimer’s Association!

Editor’s Note: Look for more about the organization as they prepare for their major fundraising initiative, the 2022 Walk to End Alzheimer’s, slated for the District on October 8 and October 29 in Prince George’s County. Their vision is a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia. Visit www.alz.org or call (800) 272-3900 for more information. And join the Washington Informer as we participate in both area walks in D.C. and Prince George’s County in October.

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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