Animating Alzheimer's disease film and panel discussion May 6, 2023.

"Animating Alzheimer's"
A film premiere and reception
May 6, 4-6 p.m.
The Jefferson School
233 4th Street NW, Charlottesville

A screening of the new short film, "Animating Alzheimer's," will premiere at an event at Charlottesville's Jefferson School May 6 at 4 p.m. and be followed by a panel discussion and question and answer session for community members interested in and impacted by dementia, caregiving, and the toll cognitive decline exerts on patients, families, caregivers, and loved ones.

The film, created by a team of three scientist-scholars through a 3Cavaliers grant earned in 2021, offers an approachable, graphical rendering of the disease's neuro-biological processes, as well as the social, emotional, and economic impacts it can exert. At its center, it features Charlottesville pastor and businesswoman Wendy Cooper, whose mother, Lottie, struggled with the disease for more than a decade before her death in the summer of 2022, a woman who Cooper describes as "the best mother a girl could ever have." 

Ishan Williams, UVA School of Nursing

“People impacted by Alzheimer’s are really fascinated by it, but often don’t know how to have conversations about it, and what questions to ask to understand it. This film will show in simple pictures what changes are taking place in the brain, and, through a caregiver’s voice, what living with and around the disease can be like.”

Ishan Williams, social scientist and scholar

Cooper, who cared for her mother from her diagnosis in 2011 until her death in mid-2022, is the film's undisputed star. In the film, she shares how she faced heart wrenching challenges and difficult decisions over her mother's decade-long battle with the disease. Cooper's stories give voice to the experiences caregivers have, individuals who often face debilitating grief, anxiety, guilt, and uncertainty, are often pressed financially by the disease, which can leave its victims wholly dependent on others. 

"I'm constantly counting the costs," Cooper said during her mother's life, "not just in dollars but in time, disruption, and the ability to provide the care she needs."

Clinical uses for the film will be many: running on loop in clinic waiting rooms, shown at community forums on dementia, at Alzheimer’s support group meetings, and by clinicians to newly diagnosed patients and their loved ones to offer a sense of what’s to come. Social scientist and scholar Ishan Williams, an associate professor of nursing, plans to develop with the team a complement of short films on dementia that will delve into other facets of dementia—caregiver depression, how respite programs work, what meeting one's neurologist is like, what an appointment involves, and Alzheimer’s genetic and environmental risk factors—as a way to connect caregivers, who” rarely get asked to tell their stories” to “get more conversations going.”

At the May 6 event at the Jefferson School, after a screening of the 15-minute film, expert panelists will lead a discussion, answer audience members' questions, and host a short reception with light refreshments.

In addition to Cooper, panelists will include George Bloom, a biology professor in UVA's College of Arts & Sciences; Jaideep Kapur, a neurology professor and director of UVA's Brain Institute; Carol Manning, a neurology professor and clinician who directs UVA's Alzheimer's Disease Clinic; Jack Van Horn, a professor of psychology and data science in the School of Data Science, and Williams. The forum and discussion will be moderated by associate professor of nursing Ishan Williams, a social and behavioral scientist who studies aging, dementia, and develops interventions for family caregivers.

The event is free and open to the public.