When Your Loved One
Has Dementia

Directed by Shipra Shukla


A patient's wife

Another patient


Shipra Shulka of Kathaka Films and the University of California, San Francisco, sought to educate providers and families on what to expect when a loved one receives hospital care for dementia and how to improve the quality of life for those involved.

I was engaged to play the wife of a dementia patient. My daughter and I find that my husband becomes agitated and uncooperative with a nurse when she tries to explain how to use the phone to get help when he needs to get out of bed. I remind him of a similar situation during our second honeymoon -- how confusing it was to use the phone on the cruise ship and what a great time we had on that vacation. The memory calms him and allows him to accept the instructions on phone use and the necessity of not getting out of bed alone.

Daughter Rebecca Pontazes, me, Bonnie Steiger as wife,
and Husband Arye Bender.

Director Shipra Shukla discussing scene with Rebecca Pontazes
This in-house film demonstrates that when nurses are given lots of background infornmation about a patient they can use the details about their lives to help them acclimate to the hospital situation and avoid potentially stressful situations, keeping them calm and even happy.

Given another part as a demented patient --
thanks to my 'demented' wig.

I mentioned to Shipra that I had brought a wig just in case she wanted an older look. She decided to use me as a patient while wearing the wig, as well as the wife of the first patient without a wig. Great! I got double the coverage and got to exercise my chops on a distressed character whose sitiation improves with the judicial use by the hospital staff of information about me.

Kudos to make-up artist Spiraleena

In the scene with me in bed, aboce, I suffer from boredom and a sense of uselessness which makes me lethargic and depressed. The nurse comes in to talk to me. She says she understands I used to be an art teacher and she would really appreciate it if I created some art to hang in the nurses' lunch room. She gives me some paper and crayons. I immediately perk up and start working.

In another scene, I've gotten lost and confused in the hallway of the hospital -- I start to panic. In one take, a doctor, Ravi Valleti, sees me and calls over some orderlies to get me back in my room. I get even more frightened by his gruff manner and the hasty approach of two big guys. In the next take, it's me in the same situation, lost and confused in the ward hallway. Nurse Patricia Simmons approaches me with a warm smile, and she tells me it's tea time. She knows form my intake interview with my family and I usually take tea each afternoon, an old habit I enjoy. She says we should go back to my room for tea and cookies. I relax, return her smile and we go back to my room together, calmly and happily.

Doctor Ravi Valleti, and second row: me, Arye Bender,
Rebecca Pontazes and Nurse Patricia Simmons

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