An estimated 35.6 million people worldwide are living with dementia, according to a report by Alzheimer’s Disease International.
With such a startling number of people suffering from the group of brain diseases that affect intellectual and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning, it’s no surprise that associate professor Mel Baron chose dementia as the focus for Forgotten Memories, his new fotonovela.
The fotonovela, which is written in English and Spanish, uses photographs and text in a comic book-like fashion to tell the story of Memo, an elderly mariachi musician who is showing signs of memory loss.
His family becomes concerned when he forgets how to get to their usual mariachi gig, and after persuasion from his local pharmacist, Memo agrees to undergo memory screenings.
At the clinic, Memo learns that he is showing signs of dementia, and his physician recommends a medication. In addition, she encourages his wife to attend a support group to learn how to best manage the disease and to find people who can relate to her struggles.
Memo is portrayed by real-life musician Jesse Ceballos, who comes from a long line of mariachis of Mexican descent. His wife is played by Rosalie Ceballos, his actual spouse.
The book is aimed at L.A.’s Spanish-speaking communities, and the story is based on research about individuals who struggle with Alzheimer’s.
“In this community, dementia is rarely talked about,” Baron said. “Families struggle with it but have trouble being open about it and acknowledging it as a disease. Instead, those with dementia are often labeled as being ‘loco’ as in our story.”
Research that informed the script was the result of a collaboration among USC schools. Margaret Gatz, a professor of psychology, gerontology and preventive medicine at USC College; John Danner, a psychiatric social worker at the Keck School of Medicine of USC; and Brad Williams, a professor of clinical pharmacy with a specialty in geriatrics at the USC School of Pharmacy, contributed to the project.
“Working together had a major impact on the way the script turned out,” Baron said. “We spent a considerable amount of time crafting the message to ensure we would get the main points across in a culturally sensitive way.”
Baron hopes that readers will accept the message that it is important for caregivers to get the help and support they need when dealing with someone with dementia. The fotonovela will be distributed in safety-net clinics, local pharmacies and other community events, including a local mariachi festival.
This is the sixth fotonovela produced by Baron and his team at the USC School of Pharmacy. Other titles include Fiesta Fiasco, which deals with medication compliance; Oscar and the Giant, which addresses pediatric asthma; Sweet Temptations, which focuses on diabetes; What My Girlfriend Didn’t Know, which looks at birth defects; and Secret Feelings, about depression. The group is also in production on a fotonovela about childhood obesity.
Forgotten Memories was written by Roberto Espinosa, Gregory Molina, Raquel Salinas and Estefany Zendejas. It was photographed and directed by Mike Powers.
Support for the project was provided by the USC School of Pharmacy, Forest Laboratories Inc., the Good Neighbor Pharmacy, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the USC Good Neighbors Campaign, Pfizer and the USC Memory and Aging Center.
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