Isabella came to St. John’s on the Lake in Milwaukee after she injured her leg in a gardening accident. It was a tough transition, says Angie Crimmings, one of the caregivers at St. John’s.
“For 20 years, Isabella had isolated herself from her family after her husband died,” explains Crimmings. “She lived a very isolated life so coming to St. John’s was quite the transition for her.”
But with time, she started to open up to staff and participate in the facility’s TimeSlips storytelling program, a creative process for people with memory loss based on the therapeutic power of stories that began in Milwaukee. She also shared more about her life andher Italian heritage.
“Isabella was a very talented fashion designer,” says Jessi Hewitt, a caregiver who has developed a close relationship with Isabella.”She’s done designs for political figures. She was also a professor at UW-Milwaukee where she taught art.”
It isn’t always easy. The stories often bring up things from Isabella’s past. Crimmings says that Isabella talked a lot about being in Germany during World War II and being tortured by the Germans. Something about the leg injuries that led to her move to St. John’s, says Crimmings, brought up memories of the war.
“I’m not sure what really happened during that timeframe but her injury sparked memories,” says Crimmings.
Crimmings says Isabella frequently gets emotional during TimeSlips about things both positive and negative. She believes Isabella expresses the trauma of her injuries through the storytelling process.
“I think TimeSlips gives her a creative outlet,” says Crimmings. “Being a professor at UW-M was one of those things that meant a lot to her. She loves to talk to kids, she loves to talk about her history, and I think this program has given her a social outlet.”