Thanks to the recent Oscar win by Julianne Moore, “Still Alice” is enjoying renewed attention. That attention is allowing for another opportunity for discussion about dementia and Alzheimer’s. Opening the door for conversation about what patients and caregivers experience is good for everyone involved with dementia in all of its forms.
For those who haven’t seen the film, it focuses on Alice Howland, a linguistics professor. She is younger than what most would assume is the ‘typical’ Alzheimer’s patient. She is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, and audiences initially see Alice forgetting words that would come naturally to her.
The film has been praised for not shying away from the uncomfortable truths of the disease. Alice’s journey is depicted fairly starkly in the film. In truth, both dementia and Alzheimer’s can be harsh to live with for both the patient and the caregiver.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability. It is severe enough to disrupt daily activities. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior.
Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, though it is most often associated with people who are 65 and older. At age 65, the risk of Alzheimer’s doubles every five years. By age 85, the risk is almost 50%, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
As shown in the movie, however, up to five percent of Alzheimer’s patients are in their 40s and 50s.
Maria Shriver, an executive producer on the movie, has said, “What ‘Philadelphia’ did for AIDS, ‘Still Alice’ may do for Alzheimer’s.”
In accepting her award, Moore said, “So many people with this disease feel isolated and marginalized and one of the wonderful things about movies is it makes us feel seen and not alone.”
She continued, “And people with Alzheimer’s deserve to be seen, so that we can find a cure.”
Research and Treatment
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. There are treatment options available to those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and research is continuing.
There is a family in Philadelphia that has partnered with the University of Pittsburgh to assist with research into early onset Alzheimer’s. Five of six siblings in the DeMoe family carry a gene that has been determined to be an indicator of early onset Alzheimer’s. More information on their research project may be found here.
Projects such as this are just one of the many ways scientists are working to find additional treatment options – and hopefully, eventually, a cure – for dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Often patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s reach a point where they are no longer able to live at home. Their needs outpace the abilities of family or friends, and they need to live in a memory care or assisted living facility where trained professionals can provide them with assistance and care that can make daily life easier.
It can be quite trying on both the patient and the family to make the decision to transition to this type of caregiving and residential area. There are many layers of processing to be worked through before all involved are ready to move forward and before the proper community can be selected.
We provide additional educational information in our Resource Center about memory care and assisted living facilities to help with these choices. Memory care communities often are contained residences with security monitoring to ensure the patient’s safety. They also have low resident to staff ratios, again to ensure the safety and comfort of the patients.
When a film provides an opportunity to shed additional light on illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, everyone involved with these diseases benefits.
Photo Credit: IMDb