Sunday's Oscars awards ceremony marks an important victory in the battle for awareness about dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Two great actresses - Julie Christie ("Away From Her") and Laura Linney ("The Savages") - are nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for their work dealing with issues related to dementia. And Sarah Polley is nominated for best adapted screenplay for "Away From Her."
The Alzheimer's Association sent an e-mail alert earlier in February with a great idea. They suggested hosting an Oscar Party to spread awareness about Alzheimer's disease and to raise funds for the cause. The association even created a website with ideas, tools and a party kit. By hosting a party, you can join with family and friends to cheer on these three talented women who have brought increased visibility to the challenges brought on by dementia and also raise critical funds for research and other important types of support.
I really do believe these Oscar nominations are truly cause for celebration. Yes, there have been other movies about dementia, most notably the 2001 movie "Iris" (which received multiple Oscar nominations) and the 2004 tear-jerker "The Notebook." Yet, to have three very talented people nominated for their work in two different movies in one year is important to note. I believe it indicates an increasing interest by artists (whether in movies, books or other mediums) in exploring the challenges and issues that dementia brings to those who have this disease and those who care for them.
I've always thought that art is a mirror that reflects what our culture is going through. It seems like 30 years ago when my grandmother had undiagnosed dementia, Alzheimer's disease was swept to the side and not talked about (and definitely not depicted in movies). Instead, we attributed Grandma's mental issues to "senility" or "old age." To have moved this far where our society will watch the challenges depicted by Julie Christie's character as she struggles with early onset Alzheimer's or see the personal and family struggles that Laura Linney's character must face in providing care for her father is important.
We now are able to name Alzheimer's and dementia for what it is in our popular culture and to watch its implications being portrayed in an honest and forthright manner. Hopefully, that means we're also on the way as a society to finding ways to support families who must deal with the consequences brought on by dementia.
Published On: February 21, 2008