Made in Alaska, a powerful new film chronicles the challenges of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s set to premiere this week at the Bear Tooth Theatrepub. The film is called “Backing Out of Time,” and documents the stories of five Alaskan families as they provide care for a parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia-related diseases.
Director Mary Katzke of Affinity Films and Janet Burts, one of the caretakers in the film, joined Daybreak on the couch Tuesday to talk about the documentary.
“We’re at a time in Alaska where the senior population is the fastest growing in the country,” Katzke said. “One in nine of those people will have Alzheimer’s, so it seems like it’s important that we draw attention to this while we’re still in a position to make decisions about our future.”
“Backing Out of Time” documents the families over the course of three and a half years.
“Of course we know a lot of Alaskans don’t stay here in their golden years,” Katzke said. “So we have one family that actually moved out and brought her mother down there. Then we have another family who went Outside to be with her mother and then three who are actually here and made all their decisions in the Anchorage care-based community.”
In the film, Burts cares for her mother, who is 83 years old and was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.
“So we’re starting from the beginning through the whole journey,” Burts said.
The documentary also takes an inside look into the caretakers and the effects that caring for someone else has on them. Often times caretakers can start to develop their own health care issues because they’re not taking care of themselves.
“A lot of us [caretakers] are guarded, I think, because you don’t want to show that,” Burts admitted. “You have to show your parent or the person you’re caring for that you’re strong and it’s not affecting you. Because they do have lucid moments and so you don’t really know one day to the next what that will be.”
The film means a lot to the caretakers because it means they’re not alone, Burts said.
“[It means] I’m not walking this and making up the game plan as I go,” she said. “There’s other people I can look at and watch and see. And so it’s a little more comforting to know that I’m not breaking ground here.”
“I want them to feel empathy for a caregiver in their lives,” Katzke said. “They’re all around us and they may be struggling privately and so to reach out and do that, to offer some care. And secondly, to make plans for yourself while you still can. I’m challenging people to use the Thanksgiving table, the pumpkin pie and coffee time to tell your family, to tell your children or your parents or each other, your spouse, what you want if this should happen to you so that you can make those decisions before you’re in a crisis because most wait until there’s a crisis to start thinking about it.”
“Backing Out of Time” premieres Wednesday, Nov. 12 at the Bear Tooth Theatrepub at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $4 for general admission and $5.50 for reserved.
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