The Forgetting Documentary

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Sometimes I find that an experience appears to provide a preview of what life will be like. In 2004, PBS aired a documentary entitled, “The Forgetting: A Portrait of Alzheimer’s.” The documentary, based on a book by David Shenk, follows several families who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Several medical experts also are interviewed for the program. I watched this program when it first aired and had a feeling that I would be facing these issues in the future since Mom already displayed some memory loss.

    The documentary, which received an Emmy Award, offers some sobering statistics – there’s a 10 percent chance of suffering from dementia once you reach the age of 75 and anywhere from 25 to 47 percent chance once you reach the age of 85. The time that can elapse from the time of diagnosis to death can be anywhere from 8 to 20 years. The economic cost of dealing with dementia at the time the program aired was $100 billion. The documentary projects that the entire federal budget will be consumed by caring for those with Alzheimer’s Disease by the year 2030 (when the Baby Boomer generation reaches these ages). The program also lists many famous people, such as Ronald Reagan, Aaron Copland, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Rita Hayworth, who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease.
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    Although this program touches the tip of the iceberg related to Alzheimer’s, it does a wonderful job of following several families who are dealing with different issues. The mother in one family is basically non-responsive. Another family is dealing with the repercussions of early-onset Alzheimer’s – one sister has already died from this disease, another sister is suffering from it, and a brother has just been diagnosed.

    Another portion of the documentary reminds me of my family’s issues. A husband is caring for his wife, who is denying that there is anything wrong with her. Yet you see the wife struggle with memory tasks at the doctor’s office. You also see her acting out verbally at her young grandson. The husband is worried that the grandson won’t understand that these words and actions are the disease talking, not his grandmother.

    I’d encourage those who are dealing with caring for loved ones who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s to watch this documentary. (I rented the DVD recently from Netflix.) PBS also has created a website that offers some useful information and resources.

Published On: August 29, 2006