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It’s being billed as a sensitive look at the causes of dementia, misinformation surrounding the disease, and the individual and personal experiences of people touched by it. “This is Dementia” will premier Thursday on Netflix examining the experiences of one man as a dementia educator, academic researcher and grandson of a dementia sufferer.
Audiences will be able to hear from someone who has both witnessed dementia in his family and has the medical expertise to offer straight facts on the disease. That man is Neuropsychologist Dr. John DenBoer—a U.S.-based dementia researcher and the creator of Smart Brain Aging—a company that helps delay the onset of dementia and reduce its severity through a science-backed brain-training program. DenBoer works in the area of early-stage dementia detection, specializing in developing intervention mechanisms to help prevent the further development of the dementia process.
He was studying geriatric neuropsychiatry in 2004 at the University of Montana (UM) and about to head to the VA Boston Healthcare System to complete his internship, when his grandmother began to develop dementia. “That’s when I started getting interested in how to identify dementia early and how to prevent it from getting worse.” He has since named his nonprofit—the Jean Seeling Dementia Prevention Foundation—for her.
DenBoer said, “While the documentary is a personal story about my grandmother and me, it really focuses on how my story is like everyone else’s story. It’s not incredibly unique at all. It’s a shared story. Dementia is a terrible disease. It takes what we value most—our independence, dignity and time. For me this is a spiritual and personal mission.”
“There is so much misinformation around dementia – especially among the older generation,” DenBoer said. “Over the course of their lives, they’ve heard all kinds of information about dementia and now aren’t sure what to believe. Fortunately, we have a lot clearer picture of the many causes of different types of dementia. The trick is getting accurate information out there.”
One of the biggest myths about dementia, says DenBoer, is that it is a normal part of aging. “You can ask someone if they believe it, and they will tell you they don’t, but I think it’s a really deep-seeded, almost philosophical tenet that people hold that they believe dementia is inevitable,” he said. “We don’t treat heart disease or cancer or diabetes like that. People wouldn’t say those diseases are inevitable. Most people do preventative healthcare for those.”
In his documentary, DeBoer points out the widely-held belief that Robin Williams was suffering from undiagnosed dementia before his untimely death. Also included in the film is footage of other celebrities—such as Samuel L Jackson, Seth Rogen and Hector Eliondo—sharing their personal experiences of the disease.
“Almost everyone I speak to has been touched by dementia in some way – a partner, friend, or family member,” says DenBoer. “People want to know how to help; what they can do to support someone living with the disease. But most importantly they want to hear from someone with a personal experience of assisting a person with dementia, not just another medical professional. I hope this documentary will offer understanding, education and above all hope to people living with dementia.”
As we get older, cells die and the body ages. But dementia is something else entirely. An accelerated aging of the brain compared to the rest of the body, dementia ages the brain faster than usual causing shrinking of certain brain regions, especially in the mid-brain where memories are stored. There are different types of dementia based on causation. Alzheimer’s, for example, is believed to be caused by an abnormal build-up of proteins in the brain, DeBoer said.
“With more people living longer and a declining birth rate, there will be fewer younger, healthy people paying for healthcare coverage, dementia could cause a funding crisis in the coming years if left unchecked,” DenBoer said. He cited the following facts for reasons for his decision to create a documentary to educate others on dementia:
- Someone develops Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds.
- Dementia affects 47 million people worldwide.
- The number of cases is expected to triple in the next 10-15 years.
- Dementia is the 6th leading cause of death in the US, claiming more lives than prostate and breast cancers combined.
DenBoer said his documentary should appeal to all ages, as everyone has a stake in the outcome of dementia research. “One in three people in the world will go on to develop dementia. So it will affect them one way or another very intimately and quite significantly,” he said. “Given the statistics, most people will know someone who will have dementia if they don’t get it themselves.”
“This is Dementia” will also premier at FilmBar at 815 N 2nd St., in Phoenix, Arizona and on Amazon, Hulu, iTunes and Google Play on Thursday, August 11.
For more information on DenBoer’s SMART Memory Program® with SMART Brain Aging, click here.
April 9, 2019 at 10:26PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs