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Dementia video explores grieving process of caregivers

Tony Lobbezoo sometimes thinks he's in a hotel, instead of a care facility for patients with dementia.

When his wife Cindy comes to visit, he has asked her:

"Next time you rent this place, you make sure it has a double bed," Cindy Lazaruk recalls, laughing.

He's also asked her to marry him, forgetting that of course, he already has. It was both sweet and sad.

"His poor brain; He knows that marriage means together," said Lazaruk.

She said she tries to find the humour, but her situation is far from funny.

Lazaruk was only 50 when her husband was diagnosed with dementia, five years ago. Until last year, she couldn't talk to anyone about it without crying.

At first, she felt angry, and frustrated and lonely. It was a counsellor, however, who made her understand she was going through grief.

Lazaruk is one of a handful of Victoria residents who have shared her story in a new locally-produced documentary, called Grief, Loss and Dementia: Caregivers share their journey. It premieres Monday (Jan. 30).

Grieving for a loved one with dementia differs from grieving the death of a loved one in two main ways, said counsellor Betty Andersen.

"The grief is not acknowledged … by the world and its often not acknowledged by the person themselves," said Andersen, who also appears in the film.

Second, the grieving goes on a long time. "There can be loss, after loss, after loss," she said.

"They're spending energy grieving and they're spending energy caregiving … so they can arrive at the end of a journey totally depleted."

Sherry Lepage directed the film, funded mostly by the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

The movie mostly interviews caregivers because they "are really the experts," Lepage said. "I think that validates peoples' feelings … (and helps them) to understand their emotional upheaval."

The DVD, she said, was made to reach people who can't attend a support group.

Lazaruk had her own difficulties.

Unlike most dementia caregivers who are older, she still works.

"We managed to put together a support group to be in the evening for people that are working during the day and have spouses that are young," she said. "The word gets out and there's about five or six of us in our group now."

Mark your calendar

Grief, Loss and Dementia, Caregivers share their journeys will be screened Jan. 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the Eric Martin Theatre in the 1900 block of Fort St., as part of the Movie Monday series. For more information: www.moviemonday.ca/

Did you know?

• More than 70,000 people in B.C. are currently living with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia, of which 10,000 are under the age of 65

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