Written for Midwest Matters by Karyn Witt
For months our local ‘Community Conversations’ group was grappling with how to get funding to bring Alzheimer’s Speaks Founder, Lori LaBey to our area. We had been seeing an increase in the number of patrons that were attending our Alzheimer’s Association programs here at Westchester Public Library and wanted to bring them more information on the subject. Lo and behold, I attended my first ALA conference in Chicago and got to meet our NNLM, Greater Midwest Region Rep, Bobbi Newman. She listened to the problems we were experiencing with getting Lori to our area and spoke to me about the opportunities that NNLM offered public libraries. After working diligently on the NNLM grant, we were overjoyed to be chosen to receive the Public Library Outreach Award for Community Conversations with Lori LaBey!
Our Community Conversations committee met to assign duties to the local partners to get the ball rolling on this event. Working through some setbacks in November, we finally secured the dates with Lori to arrive in March. We planned for 2 events at Westchester Public Library and thought we would plan the 3rd event at a nearby local community college that had a nursing program. We decided to have an early morning session for this event along with a 10-table health fair. Always expect the unexpected and have a backup plan! Five days before the event, we chose to cancel the community college session due to low attendance.
I proceeded to contact a neighboring high school that had a vocational health sciences program to see if they were interested in hosting Lori LaBey at their school. They were thrilled to hear that this was a possibility and asked if she could speak to 2 classes. I immediately contacted Lori, and she was thrilled that she got the chance to talk to our future caregivers. After speaking to the first class, the teacher introduced the student officers to Lori. The president of the class bravely told us her story that the class had decided to champion Alzheimer’s earlier in the school year when her Grandmother had passed away from this incurable disease in October 2017. They organized a fashion show to raise funds for Alzheimer’s and wanted to donate the proceeds to Alzheimer’s Speaks!
During the 2 events at the Westchester Public Library, Lori presented the film, His Neighbor Phil, which showed how dementia relates to your own family, circle of friends, workplace, and business. After the film, she discussed ‘caring roles’ and ‘protection vs. perceptions’ and why care partner roles are changing, as well as answer questions. Our local Community Conversation partners provided grab-n-go food bags, water, tissues and pens for the evaluations for all the events. These educational events were free to the public. We had a great turnout for all the sessions and Lori stayed long over the end of the program to answer the audience’s questions.