Still Me Still You

B2015 Dvdstillalice 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.

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4 Responses to Still Me Still You

  1. tabor says:

    It is a tragedy and I wonder how people find strength. My mother-in-law lost her short term memory and forgot who she was back until her early 20’s We humored her and loved her and hung in there.

  2. Ray Barnes says:

    I didn’t know they had made a film of this story. I read it (courtesy of Aylesbury library) about four months ago and was bowled over by the sensitivity of the writing.
    As you so rightly say, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are all around us and who knows which of us may follow that route.
    It must be very difficult for those closest to watch the person they love disappearing behind the illness.
    Perhaps even worse (we will never be sure) for the one slowly losing their identity.
    We can pray that a cure may be found and in the interim do our best to be understanding and patient with those (sufferers and carers) who are affected.

  3. Sheila says:

    Oh Freda, this is so hard for me to face. Janice is in decline and I am having trouble dealing with it. I have the book and can’t bring myself to read it. I’ve been avoiding it for ages. Thanks for your bold and true approach.

  4. A tough film. My Nana also slipped away and the buden of her care fell on my Aunt Audrey. My Mom was petrified of what happened to her mom, but she never lived to see it for herself because she died at 56. Perhaps that was a blessing afterall.

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