October 5, 2016 8:56 pm

Forensic psychiatrist and concerned families weigh in on dementia-related violence

WATCH ABOVE: Some Calgary caregivers are raising questions about dementia and what help is available. The concern comes after the revelation a man, now accused of murder, likely suffered from dementia. Bindu Suri reports.


A recent tragedy involving a man believed to have dementia, is hitting home with many families.

Some caregivers are raising questions about the disorder and what help is available.

On Wednesday, a forensic psychiatrist told a Calgary court that 85-year-old Siegfried van Zuiden, now accused of killing his wife, likely has a form of dementia.

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Cindy McCaffery feels an overwhelming sense of compassion for the family.

“I felt like I had a lump in my stomach,” she said. “I felt for the family.

McCaffery has questions about whether the couple had help.

She went years without professional support nine years ago, when her husband John was diagnosed with early-onset dementia at age 48.

“I kind of felt like we were left on a beach and all our friends and family were taking off.  I have a good relationship with my family and they’ve been wonderful.”

Now McCaffery has homecare workers who make regular visits.  They remind her husband to take his medication.

While dementia affects ten per cent of Calgary seniors, violence associated with dementia is extremely rare.

“There is this myth, with dementia being synonymous with aggressive behavior,” said Jill Petrovic with Alzheimer Calgary.

“That’s not true, a case like this, while tragic, is very rare,” Petrovic said.

The organization is seeing a 30% increase in calls for support. The surge is not related to violence but rather anxiety and grief.

McCaffery said it’s worth the call.

“Everyone is very accommodating. You don’t have to be embarrassed. People get heart disease and nobody is embarrassed to get heart disease.”

Alzheimer Calgary says the prevalence of dementia is expected to double by 2030.


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