New dementia documentary sheds light on the need for more community awareness
24 June 2022 at 6:07 pm
A shared love for art dovetails with a moving documentary about dementia awareness, written, directed and produced by journalist, film maker and educator Renee Brack.
Ticketyboo: A secret in plain sight, is part ode to a grieving daughter’s father and part advocacy piece – aiming to raise awareness about how to speak with, connect and care for people you love who have Alzheimer’s disease.
The full-length film will premiere at the Melbourne Documentary Festival next month, with experts in the field to hold a discussion panel at the conclusion of the screening.
Renee Brack said her experiences watching her own father’s decline with Alzheimer’s disease moved her to make the film, which has taken eight years to complete.
“My father died in 2011, and in 2014 I was going backwards. I was consumed with guilt for not having more awareness and needed to process my grief,” she said.
“We were very close and had a shared love for art. He loved realism. I loved surrealism and we talked. That was what we did.
“So when he began to lose his memory, he hid it, and I was frustrated with him. I just figured he was being a cantankerous frustrated artist, when really, he was slipping into the disease.
“The way I handled my father’s eventual diagnosis was pretty well a textbook example of what not to do. I’ll carry the guilt about that for the rest of my life, but making this documentary helped me find a way to forgive myself.”
She said with 75 per cent of dementia cases globally going undiagnosed, the key driver in the narrative is the encouragement of awareness: learning how to respectfully engage with those with the disease from a perspective of understanding.
“I hope Ticketyboo can… shed some light and foster some understanding of what is such a misunderstood condition,” Brack said.
The documentary’s name comes from the expression Brack’s dad would use to flippantly insist everything was fine.
His secrecy about his condition was driven by shame and denial, something Brack hopes her documentary can play a part in overcoming for others.
“If we don’t talk about this, people will make the same mistakes I made,” she said.
“There may not be a cure for Alzheimer’s but there are things we can do, and the conversation starts with honesty and openness.”
She said one of the key takeaways for those with family members touched by Alzheimer’s disease is to meet them where they are.
“I kept asking open-ended questions, asking about the past, and this is really the worst thing you can do,” she explained.
“You should ask questions based in the present moment, and go with them on their wild [imaginary] adventures. Dance, indulge the stories they tell. It is a way to connect.”
DemSafe – Safety in the community
Alongside the film, Brack is launching a community awareness campaign, DemSafe, with co-producer Cristina Foster.
The aim is to help those in the community who have the disease, with all proceeds from Ticketyboo going towards the launch of the campaign.
Brack said cases like that of Bernard Gore, a 71-year-old man with dementia who was found dead in a shopping centre stairwell in January 2017 after having been missing for three weeks, highlighted the need to raise awareness in the community, and to create a system to support older people while they are out and about.
“He was just walking to the shopping centre, clearly forgetting where he was and that was the result,” Brack said.
DemSafe’s aim is to create a program and awareness campaign within shopping centres to build the visibility of the issue and to create an action plan so cases like the Bernard Gore tragedy do not happen again.
Brack added if you see an older person who looks disorientated, to approach them, reassure them and ask if they are okay.
“Much like a lost child, the same approach needs to be used with older people with the condition,” she said.
“If in a shopping centre, if they are disorientated, take them to centre management, and find a way to contact their families.”
As part of the campaign, Brack said a sign will be created to highlight that a particular area is “a DemSafe zone”.
“The first time my dad went missing, he walked off to a lighthouse, so it will probably be inspired by that,” she added.
To donate to DemSafe, you can go to Documentary Australia
All screenings of the documentary will support DemSafe, making shopping centres more dementia friendly.
Ticketyboo screens as part of the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival on Saturday 30 July. Tickets are available at www.cinemanova.com.au