I found out late, very late – my sister had to tell me – that a huge part of my mothers’ memory had gone. Why didn’t I notice it myself? At the time my mother was 73 years old and I was 36. We spoke weekly by phone and I would visit her every month. (But that also could have been in a more considerable time span.) I must have been too busy to pay attention but I have to admit that my mother was very smart. She simply tricked me and my father kept silent as well. ‘He could handle it’, he said later: He had a complete system organized. He surely did manage for a number of years. But these years were also the loneliest in his life.
The seven years that followed taught me basic lessons in life. We do not seem to share essential information when we really need one another. Is it because of pride? Fear? Shame? Important questions, they reflect a lot of sorrow.
Dementia comes to every third person so it affects us all. People suffer because of lack of knowledge by the people surrounding them. We, family, colleagues, friends, do not recognize the symptoms in time and more importantly; understand the needs of people with memory problems. We simply don’t know what to do. And when at last we do, our knowledge becomes worthless when the person with dementia dies. Others have to learn the same lessons again. The time that is spoiled brings more unnecessary loneliness and suffering.
The Dutch organization ‘Bouwen aan Leefbaarheid’ (building liveability) created the slogan ‘Leefplezier’ (enjoying life). They asked me to direct a couple of short films on care and quality of life. They knew my background and gave me full artistic freedom for which I am very grateful. Ten films will be released in 2015. By sharing their knowledge via personal stories people who deal with dementia help others.
At the moment nl12 film is looking for new funding and more partners to expand the project.
See the first film here
My father Leo Erken sr. (1925-2010) and my mother Greet van der Zee (1927-2008) in 2006.
Pictures of Greet and Leo here.