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March 8, 2024

HERstory: Honoring the Journey of Individuals Living with Dementia

Category: Memory Care

Author: Adrianna Rosado, Memory Care Director

Women’s History Month

HERstory serves as a tribute to the unique journey, experiences, and contributions of an individual living with dementia. Each HERstory carries a rich past of memories, relationships, and accomplishments that define their identity. As dementia progresses, memories begin to fade. Preserving and sharing these narratives become invaluable in honoring the person affected and maintaining their dignity. At Vitalia Westlake, we believe in acknowledging and celebrating each individual’s life story. Through this approach, we affirm the inherent worth and complexity of those living with dementia. It allows us to transcend the limitations imposed by their condition.

Through storytelling, we bridge the gap between the past and the present. This fosters meaningful interactions and cultivates a sense of belonging for individuals living with dementia. By embracing their narratives with empathy and compassion, we counteract stigma, dispel misconceptions, and promote a culture of inclusivity and respect for individuals affected by dementia.

Below is a HERstory about one of the residents living in our Memory Care Neighborhood.

Marilyn Z. grew up in The Bronx, NY, with an older sister, younger brother, and younger sister. Her father was a New York City taxi driver, and her mother was a homemaker. Marilyn excelled in school, always eager to learn and help others around her. Because of financial reasons, Marilyn was unable to attend college. Instead, she began working at The Bank of New York on Madison Avenue.

A young Marilyn in a beautiful dress, sitting gracefully on a car on her graduation day.

At seventeen, she went to a dance at Fordham University in The Bronx, where she met her soon-to-be husband, John. Upon his graduation, they married and moved from the hustle and bustle of NYC to the quiet streets of Parma, OH. Marilyn and John started their family in the same home, and they started their book business. They foraged for books and periodicals at the Salvation Army, estate sales, and flea markets. They began selling books and journals out of their basement in Parma, Ohio. Now, with four kids, they have moved their growing business to a warehouse in Cleveland, Ohio. As the children grew and worked alongside their parents, the business also grew.

Marilyn’s aspirations extended beyond mere work and homemaking.

During the 1980s, she devoted her time to volunteering at Parmadale, offering support to troubled teenagers. Through her efforts, she empowered youths from diverse backgrounds to realize their untapped potential. Not only did Marilyn generously volunteer her time, but she also exhibited true philanthropy by contributing to Metro Hospital. Her dedication was recognized in the 2014 edition of Metro Health Magazine, which featured her as a significant contributor to the hospital’s children’s wing.

Marilyn’s warmth and compassion endeared her to all who knew her, a sentiment that persists to this day. She was always there with a comforting embrace, a sympathetic ear, and a warm smile. Her nonjudgmental demeanor and reluctance to offer unsolicited advice endeared her even more to those around her.

An older woman, Marilyn, is smiling and wearing a soft purple outfit.

A testament to her impact lies within a large cedar chest filled with countless thank-you cards she received over the years. Marilyn’s genuine desire to assist others is evidenced by the multitude of heartfelt messages she amassed, reflecting the depth of her kindness and the extent of her influence.

Sharing the life story of someone living with dementia is not just an act of preserving memories; it’s an embodiment of compassion, understanding, and respect. By embracing their past, we honor their journey and provide valuable insights into who they are beyond the constraints of their condition through HERstory.

VITALIA® Westlake in Westlake, OH offers independent living +, assisted living, and memory care with a variety of services and a range of floor plan options. Amenities include restaurant dining, 24-hour bistro, concierge service, housekeeping, events and entertainment, personal care, transportation services, and more. Centrally located near UH St. John Medical Center and Cleveland Clinic Avon with convenient access to major shopping centers and attractions, including Meadowood Golf Course, Crocker Park, Clague Playhouse, Porter Library, Westlake Rec Center, Sibling Revelry Brewery, Bradley Woods Reservation, Huntington Reservation, and White Oaks Restaurant.

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