Dementia affects countless individuals each day, whether they are suffering from the disease itself or are a family member of someone who is. Each of these facets of the malady’s outsized toll are captured in Frank Silverstein’s potent short film, Lousy: Love in the Time of Dementia, which follows the simultaneous cognitive decline of both his mother and father. According to the Hastings-on-Hudson resident who previously worked in news for both CNN and NBC, the film is a natural outcropping of his prior work.
“My wife and I were having lunch at my parents’ house, and suddenly my mother said, ‘Who are you? You need to leave right now!’ She got really upset, and then my father jumped in after her and said, ‘You need to leave now,’” recalls Silverstein, whose parents called him soon after, wondering why he had left. After returning to the house, Silverstein knew something important was afoot. “It was so strange that, being a news guy, I just whipped out my cellphone, and I’m like, I don’t know what this is, but I am going to film it,” says Silverstein. “As a TV journalist, I knew that these were really powerful moments. They were really upsetting, but professionally I knew that they were important.”
What resulted was a heartbreaking 15-minute portrait of two individuals at once losing themselves yet struggling to maintain their connections with what made them people. “Once I figured out that I could see their core personalities still there as their minds fell apart, it just made me feel happy in a certain way, and that’s what allowed me to make the film,” says Silverstein.
“My wife and I were having lunch at my parents’ house, and suddenly my mother said, ‘Who are you? You need to leave right now!’”
— Frank Silverstein
The film has drawn positive reviews and was screened at London’s Global Health Film Festival and the New Haven Film Festival, as well as in support groups and classrooms for nursing, social work, and medical students. “Like anything that’s scary, when you see something for what it is, you can put it into a context. I think that is what people connect with. Everyone who has watched it has told me it has been very moving to them.”