HEALTH NEWS

Belgian Alzheimer's PSA With Thieving Grandson Sparks Controversy (VIDEO)

04/18/2012 04:26 pm ET | Updated Apr 18, 2012

Critics are divided over a new Alzheimer's awareness TV ad that shows a grandson taking advantage of his grandmother's memory loss, CBS News reports.

The Flemish League Alzheimer's Association commissioned the public service announcement in order to raise awareness of the disease and encourage donations.

In the TV spot, a young man named Jeffrey repeatedly knocks on his grandmother's door in order to receive "pocket money" from her. Because she has a form of memory loss, she gives him money every time.

"I have two close relatives with Alzheimer's disease, and it's been absolutely terrifying watching both of them lose their memory, identity, and will to live," Duffy wrote on the site.

But others have defended the ad for its realistic, albeit uncomfortable, portrayal of the disease.

"Honestly, this video from a Belgian Alzheimer’s organization is kind of tough to watch. But I guess it gets across how terrible the disease is?," Guyism's Chris Spags wrote. "Honestly, that ad was about as successful in making me hate Alzheimer’s as much as it was making me want to pay someone to kick that Jeffrey [kid] in the balls every day for the rest of his life."

The PSA was released just days before the World Health Organization announced that worldwide cases of dementia are expected to triple by 2050. According to researchers, 35.6 million people were living with dementia in 2010, and only eight countries had national programs to address the needs of affected persons.

By 2030, they expect the number of people living with dementia to reach 65.7 million, and skyrocket to 115.4 million before 2050.

In the meantime, film and television producers continue to debate issues surrounding how people with dementia are portrayed onscreen.

The 2011 film "The Iron Lady" drew criticism for portraying Margaret Thatcher with Alzheimer's, with which she is still living.

"I was strongly against the film depicting a living person with dementia. That was very upsetting for her friends and family," Charles Moore, the authorized biographer of Thatcher, told Forbes. "It's an extremely unkind thing to do."

Watch this film without knowledge of the background and you’d assume Margaret Thatcher had already died. This is what angered me most about "The Iron Lady." It is representative of how society largely views elderly people, particularly those with dementia. They are ignored. They are considered to be dead long before they actually are. Those with dementia experience a loss, not just of their memory and cognition, but of respect and dignity.

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