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Homewatch CareGivers Blog

At the Movies with Caregiving

by Homewatch CareGivers | Mar 31, 2015
Alzheimer’s disease is having a Hollywood moment and as this and other illnesses get featured in award-winning films, so too does caregiving.
still alice, the movie

Alzheimer’s disease is having a Hollywood moment and as this and other illnesses get featured in award-winning films, so too does caregiving.

Even before Julianne Moore won the Oscar for best actress in the movie, “Still Alice,” the subject of the film was being used to help raise awareness for a deadly disease. Moore portrays a wife, mother, and teacher who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

When a film like “Still Alice” features well-known actors and actresses and received the highest honor in the film industry, it gets people talking about the issues.

Art Imitates Life

Michael Ellenbogen, who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at age 49, wrote a review of “Still Alice” that both criticizes it and expresses gratitude for making his disease and cause for funding a cure a mainstream discussion.

“I was impressed with this movie; in the main, they did a great job of portraying what it’s like to live with Alzheimer’s, and it was gratifying to see so many well-known actors taking part in it,” he wrote in a guest column on everydayhealth.com.  “As someone who is living with the disease, however, I can assure you that, although it is very moving and emotive, the film looks at the disease through rose-colored glasses.”

The Alzheimer’s Association now has a special website that features the women who were part of “Still Alice,” including Sandy Oltz, the Alzheimer’s Association National Early-Stage Advisor who was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s at age 46. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Ms. Oltz provided Ms. Moore with “an understanding of her daily experience.”

Ms. Oltz has written about her experience with Alzheimer’s disease on the Huffington Post. “Since the diagnosis, I've learned there is life after diagnosis, as have my two college-age sons, my daughter, and my extended family and friends,” she said in an article. “Many of you may have had a family member who has been diagnosed with or who has died of Alzheimer's disease, or maybe you have seen "Still Alice." While this film, Glen Campbell's documentary, "I'll Be Me," and other recent heart-wrenching movies such as "Away From Her" with Julie Christie and "Iris" with Judi Dench have raised the visibility of the disease, Alzheimer's remains a mystery.”

More to See

As Ms. Oltz pointed out, “Still Alice” is not the first or only film to explore life with Alzheimer’s disease and how family members cope with caring for their loved one. Here are a few more to consider:

  1. “The Savages” stars Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman as siblings who must reconnect and finds ways to provide care for their father after a dementia diagnosis.

  2. “Away from Her” stars Julie Christie as a woman who is institutionalized after her Alzheimer’s diagnosis and shows how her husband of 50 years adjusts.

  3. “Nebraska” stars Bruce Dern as a man who has not come to terms with advancing dementia and ends up on a wild goose chase for a prize scam with his adult son in tow.

  4. “The Notebook” stars Ryan Gosling and James Garner as Noah, a man whose wife has Alzheimer’s disease. Noah reads to his wife from his notebook in an effort to rekindle her memories.

  5. “A Song for Martin” has been described as “one of the most realistic depictions of caregiving on film.” Two married musicians learn that one of them has Alzheimer’s disease in this Swedish film.

There are many more films with a story about someone with a chronic condition—often dementia—and how the people around them change their lives in response to the illness. In the case of “Still Alice,” the film has become a social media campaign (#StillAlice) to raise awareness about the disease and possibly increase funding to find a cure.