Dementia has starred in movies and TV

Movies like Elizabeth is Missing and The Father are opening doors to debate about dementia (Image: AP/Rex)

As the Dementia Action Week draws to a close, UK charities have looked at portraying dementia in films and TV shows.

From Mandy Moore in This Is Us, to cult classics like The Notebook, dementia is portrayed in film and television primarily through stories of amnesia and change in family dynamics, which, while raising awareness of the sensitive issue, nonetheless in some ways can Add luster to the situation.

On the penultimate episode of This Is Us, loved ones of Rebecca (Mandy Moore) say their last goodbyes to the mother after her agonizing battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Fans flocked to social media to share their feelings on this tragic episode, and many remembered how it represented their own experiences with their loved ones.

I just watched #ThisIsUs and I have so many feelings. My mom passed away not long ago of dementia. My sister and I sat around her bed and said goodbye. Beautifully written this episode, someone wrote.

Another added, “Oh my gosh, the last episode of #ThisIsUs just opened me up to all my feelings. My grandmother had dementia and died without me by her bedside. This whole show was healing what I couldn’t do in real life.”

A third viewer shared: ‘For me, the last few episodes were for my mom, who had dementia and passed away in 2020. As for the goodbyes I never got due to Covid. Thank you #ThisIsUs for sharing your farewell.

Speaking about the representation of dementia in film and television, Karen Harrison Denning, Head of Research and Publications at Dementia UK, told “I think some get it right and some less so.

“For example, in the father’s book, I was thinking ‘Oh my God, that’s fine, it could be someone with dementia, and that might be how it’s being tested. The environment is a bit baffling at times, with viewers thinking ‘Is this his apartment or is this his daughter’s? Is this his clinic or that his apartment? So I think the way they depicted it might have given an idea of ​​how a person with dementia might feel confused about where they are, and whether that’s where they are or a nursing home or something else.

But it got to the point where he was in a nursing home, and he became very sad and the care worker put her arm around his shoulder and was going to physically rest him, which I thought was cool, and he would say, “I want my mom,” which is what a lot of people with dementia do, in the acute stages From sickness, because they just want comfort, they feel bad, and who you want when you feel bad, you want your mother. I responded by saying, “It’s okay baby,” and I thought that was a really bad way to respond to someone with dementia because they were a kid. He may want his mother but he’s still a grown man.

But somehow, I reconsidered that view, because I thought maybe this could be considered a good educational exercise to, you know, get some care staff and ask what they would have done in this case, or what you would have done differently for that care worker. So as a dementia coach, I was thinking that might be helpful, but the general public is watching this movie, so they see the care worker’s response.

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Karen continued: ‘And then you look at something like Still Alice, a movie based on a true story, about a little dementia on set, about a smart woman who works as a professor who gets dementia on set, but there’s just something about that movie and with the Father glorifying her.

“You still don’t feel like the average person with dementia, they are either wealthy or high-performing individuals, the joy of context and place.”

Karen was involved in Elizabeth is Missing, supporting the film’s production team, and had meetings with lead actress Glenda Jackson to discuss how to portray the situation as accurately as possible.

She told us, ‘I think Elizabeth is missing I got it a little bit right. There was a scene where Glenda Jackson was at the bus stop and she was confused and her daughter came in, she didn’t recognize her daughter right away and that really upset the daughter and then eventually I realized it was my daughter And I realized she didn’t recognize her, and they were both so stunned by that particular incident and that was so true of how a lot of people with dementia and their families experience it, for the first time when a person with dementia forgets someone that I think they did so well.

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Karen added: “Sometimes the arts and the media have a duty to portray a condition as accurately as possible. Not only does dementia affect memory, it affects so many other things.

Memory is usually the first thing people notice or notice, that they are more forgetful than they usually are, but it may be about thinking that their thought processes may be disrupted, their orientation, where they are, or what day, time, year or season.

“Just like in Daddy we got potentially confused with the viewer who doesn’t actually quite know where it is, sometimes you see the kitchen and it was a contemporary design, other times you can see it and it looks something from the 70s, so they filmed it a bit differently but they also shot an extension to a memory problem. He felt that people were after his possessions, especially since his son-in-law was after his watch, so the way they portrayed that, and the way Anthony Hopkins responded to that, by hiding his possessions, because he was paranoid and mad. Unsafe, so there are other things about how dementia looks that can be put into things like this.

Sometimes their language is affected, they may repeat words, forget names, or use a word inappropriately, or they may hold a pen and know what it is for but not what it is called, so they may say, can you pass this stick I can write with, because they don’t They can remember the word pen, so there are many different ways TV and film can depict dementia in these kinds of ways.

We cannot assume that every elderly person with dementia is loved by their family. And I think we’re talking about whether you love someone who has dementia, or you live with dementia, or people talk about your loved one who has dementia, but a lot of older people, a lot of people with dementia, they may not be loved, they’d probably be terrible parents. So I think we have to be sensitive to the person with dementia and their caregivers, but the relationship they’ve been in or have lived in and the emotions that go along with that. You can imagine, if a family member doesn’t really love their parents or the parent is very strict with them, and they develop dementia, how difficult it is for that family member to take care of someone who felt he didn’t care for them. So I think all these relationships should be taken into account.

Speaking about what film and television production companies can do to provide more accurate depictions of dementia, Karen shared: “I think they need to consult more in production development stages with people with dementia or their caregivers, or organizations like in our area where we can actually Advise, if they are planning to present a scene in a certain way we can help present it in a more delicate or more realistic way so that it won’t frighten people, but that has a degree of subtlety so it’s not like in Steele Alice, who wears her beautiful hair and makeup to the end, this Not the way things are.

“I know there has to be some degree of creative licensing, but for books or media to be credible, and the person with dementia to be portrayed credibly, that’s part of the research process.”

This week (May 16-22), the Alzheimer’s Charity is participating in Dementia Action Week, to ensure that no one misses a diagnosis of dementia.

Reflecting on the progress of television and film in raising awareness of dementia, Tim Penland, head of knowledge at the Alzheimer’s Association, told “One person in the UK develops dementia every three minutes, so it is very important that more the television. It shows raising awareness of the reality of the situation and accurately representing people in it.

As explained on programs like This Is Us, “A diagnosis of dementia can lead to a wide range of feelings not only for the person with the diagnosis, but also for those around them. Family dynamics often begin to change over time, especially as the person with dementia becomes more dependent. On loved ones for support.

Data from the Alzheimer’s Association revealed that 45% of people would feel uncomfortable raising concerns about a loved one’s symptoms, while 55% said there was a stigma associated with dementia, however, as Karen illustrated through the example of Elizabeth Missing, with recounting progressive events that emerged across The media and greater accuracy in representing dementia, awareness is increased and thus the stigma surrounding the condition is reduced.

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