I sat and watched this film last night with Misty as companion – paw to paw as it were. It was every bit as emotive as expected, for in case you haven’t heard of it, the subject is early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Julianne Moore deservedly received an Oscar for Best Actress and harrowing though it was, I was totally absorbed and it was as if I was living the story with the family.
Alec Baldwin played the husband admirably and the way in which the scenes were set gave all viewers a point of identity and empathy. At times the unfolding story is seen through the eyes of Alice, and at other times through the mindset of one of her three adult children, or through the eyes of her spouse. The use of different styles of filming techniques further enhanced the action. Basically, Alice is diagnosed when she is aged 50 and a successful College Academic with worldwide success and recognition in the field of language – all the more poignant because of what happens to her.
All the while there was another person with me – my Granny, for she suffered from what was unidentified as to type but recognised as a form of dementia from the age of around 65 or so. She was intelligent enough to hide what was happening to her for some considerable time. But as the disease progressed my family moved to live near her and to be on hand to help out as the need arose. It took a long time for my Gran to become so ill that she could no longer be safely managed at home and to be honest I wasn’t fully aware of what was actually happening. However, as I grew older and became the mother of four children myself it started to become inescapable. She was never coming back – the self that was her, had disappeared into herself.
Over the years my Granny has always been with me, from the happy times in my childhood when she always stuck up for me, to the sadder days when she seemed not to know who I was. But after last night I realise that she was always still my Gran, Still Marion. Her essence was there at the back of her eyes and probably hidden somewhere in the shrinking depths of memory that were once her very self. Knowing that helps a bit. But Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease, and what I hope more than anything is that people come alongside sufferers, as well as supporting research and development so that one or more treatments and cures can be found. For there is no doubt, it is a complex and cruel illness evoking emotions from families and friends at the deepest and most basic of levels.
As part of my work I spent a lot of time with people at varying stages on the progressive route of decline that is a characteristic of this disease. I learnt to live with them in the moment, to share in their memories and to accept them as they were. When they became so ill that little mental interaction was possible, I asked to hold their hands and sometimes when it seemed right, to say a prayer or sing a song. I grew to learn that staff and families have a hard time dealing with decline and what can seem stubborn aggression, but above all, my mentors were those who were suffering themselves.
If you are facing or have faced such illnesses with a Loved One, (and the truth is that most of us have,) I wish you blessings and strength and a peaceful resolution. By the way, my Gran is still with me as I write this, though goodness knows what she would have made of the whole act of typing on a computer, using the internet and reaching people across the world. I like to think she would find it magical, much better than spending days cleaning stairs for others or tidying up big houses that she could only dream of owning. For her days were hard days.
From Dalamory on this cold December day. Greetings to you and yours.