Celebrating Dementia Caregivers: Wine, Women, & Dementia

“Nobody wants to be a dementia caregiver when they grow up” that’s the opening line of Kitty Norton’s brilliant documentary ‘Wine, Women, & Dementia’. And she’s right! I certainly never thought this would be what I’d be doing halfway through my life.

I want to introduce you to & celebrate Kitty Norton as an inspiration not only in my life but for many, many other dementia caregivers around the world. She shared her journey in her blog and now has released her first ever documentary, Wine, Women, & Dementia. A film celebrating dementia caregivers through laughter, tears and a lot of wine!

It’s a powerful film offering a raw, unvarnished look at the reality of caring for loved ones with dementia. It’s funny, brutally honest, yet sad and reflective. It touches on all aspects of caregiving. Some truths that are revealed are shocking and sad, but amongst that is the joy & hilarity, caregiving can also be.

When her mother died, instead of retreating into grief, Kitty embarked on a cross-country adventure, crossing the USA in an RV camper van. Her mission? To find her people, the caregivers who had touched her life during her mother’s illness. But that wasn’t enough. She wanted to share her story, honouring her mum, Gloria, and reflect with fellow caregivers who helped her so we know, that we’re not alone on this journey.

Wine, Women, & Dementia, the documentary was born, an opportunity to share her passion to help others, share the stories of a diverse set of caregivers revealing the joys, frustrations and heartaches of caring for a loved one. Kitty captured the raw reality of caregiving, mixing humour with hard truths. She interviewed caregivers from all walks of life, showcasing the highs and lows of their experiences.

The film is simply brilliant, the raw honesty of the contributors isn’t something you see very often.

Here’s the trailer, and just so you know, I’ve seen it three times now and every time I can’t get over how it affects me. She interweaves her own story from her blog, family videos and those of the caregiver friendships she made and their stories that will have you belly laughing one minute and in tears the next.

I was honoured to get to see the film early but you too can see it for FREE during Dementia Action Week for its online premiere from 13th May -19th May, 2024, click here to register and you can also join the Caregivers After Party on Sunday, 19th May and meet Kitty & fellow caregivers discussing the themes of the film. Click here to register for that!

The caregivers who took part in this documentary really spoke from their heart. Sometimes much braver than I could ever be. There are some stand out, laugh out loud moments, then you get rocked back down to earth with stories that you totally relate to, making you so angry, cry or frustrated that caregivers can be treated in that way.

Here’s my initial reaction to the documentary, Wine, Women, & Dementia that I emailed to Kitty, the filmmaker, just after I finished watching it the first time!

Omg, Kitty, the film is brilliant. I loved it, I loved that it was totally you. The beginning, all that old footage, the way you interspersed your story throughout the film with the other caregivers. I can’t believe how much I laughed as well.

The rabbit story and then your poop story had me in stitches. Every caregiver story was different, each one had their own stories that I could relate to…It wasn’t depressing, it was upbeat with moments of reflection & sadness; you getting lost in the dark and then cutting to the story of your worries of getting dementia… I almost forgot you touched on not just the emotional, physical aspect of caregiving (felt terrible for Rosanne without sleep for so long) but also the financial impact which I think is so important, Matt (Matt Perin) telling us how quickly he went through her life savings

Meet Kitty Norton

A little background on Kitty Norton, a caregiver who turned her journey caring for her mom, Gloria, living with vascular dementia into something extraordinary.

I first knew of her by reading her StumpedTownDementia blog. It differs completely from anything I’d ever read. It was so honest, hilarious and blunt! She didn’t hide away from any subject and wrote openly about her dementia caregiving journey. She shared funny and inspiring stories about navigating through the challenges of dementia, even talking about poop. Nobody talked about poop!  

You might get an idea of the type of person Kitty Norton is from the tagline of her blog which reads 

“Punching dementia in the face one day at a time”

She shared witty videos of tips on everyday life that you just didn’t see back then, and this was well before caregiving videos on Insta or Tik Tok took off. The blog helped her to remain creative after leaving her job as an editor for NBC to care for her mum after the sudden death of her father.

I remember a specific time when I was having family problems, and she’d written about the need to have a community, a village to help you through your caregiving journey. 

Kitty cared for her mother with her sister, whilst she lived in her mum’s basement with her boyfriend, supported by friends and other family. I won’t say more than that as she explains her situation in the film, free screening here. But she also connected with other dementia caregivers who, like me, related to her through her blog posts.  

“Everyone is so isolated, we’re all in our own little world, caring for our people, but there’s got to be a better way.”

As Rosanne Corcoran says in the film and she’s right. We’re all cocooned in our own lives, but things are slowly changing. One of Kitty’s aims is to show us that we’re not alone, that caring for a loved one with dementia doesn’t have to be “the tragic narrative” that you always read about!

That’s what this documentary, Wine, Women, & Dementia by Kitty Norton showcases. As the sun sets, Kitty and her fellow caregivers sit back with a glass of wine, reflecting on the rollercoaster of emotions they’ve experienced. It’s a funny yet honest portrayal of caregiving, but it doesn’t stop there. 

If you’re a caregiver, you will understand the emotions, the struggles and the joy that they experience, hearing from a wide group of different carers, in different situations. It makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time in some moments. The old family movie clips and excerpts from her blog frame the film, firmly in Kitty’s viewpoint and it makes you realise how her way of dealing with caregiving by blogging not only helped her but helped so many others. As one caregiver explained, you don’t get it until you’re in it.

And that’s the purpose of this film, to help push the needle forward, to help other caregivers, so that they’re not isolated in their own worlds.

Wine, Women, & Dementia has earned multiple awards from film festivals in the US and, more importantly, sheds much-needed light on the often overlooked world of dementia caregiving. See it, you won’t regret it.

Kitty is an inspiration to me during her caregiving years and showing what you can do after it ends, believing in your dreams, taking an idea, a passion and making it happen. You can find her on social media- on twitter at @LicketyGlitz or @WWDdocumentary, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Her excellent blog can be found at StumpedTownDementia and more about the documentary at www.winewomenanddementia.com

So, if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of caregiving, take a page from Kitty’s book. Embrace the humor, cherish the moments, and remember that you are never alone on this journey. And who knows? You might just find yourself laughing in the face of adversity, punching dementia in the face and inspiring others to join the fight.