'A Separation' Offers Lessons About Alzheimer's Disease

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Wow! That was my reaction after watching “A Separation” over the weekend. This movie really delves deeply into a lot of issues related to caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

    This movie won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, the 2012 Independent Spirit Award for Best Foreign Film and the 2012 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. So, based on that information, you can bet you’ll get to read subtitles if you watch this. But it so very, very worth it.

    Without giving too much away, here are some of the compelling themes that run through this movie:

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    • The stress that caring for someone with Alzheimer’s places on the family. Although the movie doesn’t give you a lot of backstory about other factors that might have caused cracks to appear in the relationship between the husband named Nader and wife named Simin, you can tell that one reason is Nader's elderly father, who suffers from dementia and lives with the family. Simin, who has been serving in the caregiving role during the day while her husband is at work, wants to leave Iran in order to give their teenage daughter Termeh better opportunities. However, Nader refuses to leave because he wants to continue caring for his father.
    • The challenge of finding a qualified caregiver. When Simin moves out of the household, Nader is forced to hire a caregiver to stay with his father while he goes to work. He opts to not go through a company, instead hiring a family member of an acquaintance, whose name is Razieh. She is not trained in caring for a person who has Alzheimer’s. On her first day of work, she finds early on that the father has urinated in his pants. She assumes that he knows how to clean himself up and leaves him in the bathroom. However, she eventually determines he cannot remember how to do this task. This presents a dilemma for her since she is a very devout Muslim. After calling to get advice about this conundrum, she decides it is not a sin and helps the father clean up. This initial day of work really foreshadows other troubling events that quickly emerge in the film.
    • The challenges of having children around the house with someone with Alzheimer’s. Termeh tries hard to assist her father in taking care of her grandfather. Yet you can see the strain in her face, caused both by her parents’ separation as well as caregiving for her grandfather. In addition, Razieh’s young daughter comes with her mother when she is at work. This young child has no concept about what is going on with the elderly man and her mother doesn't have the knowledge base to teach her about elder care. In one scene, you see the unsupervised young daughter rapidly changing the volume on the elderly man’s oxygen tank while he is using it. In addition, Razieh has to send her young into another room of the apartment to make sure that she does not see her mother cleaning the elderly man after he has urinated on himself.

    This movie offers such a realistic depiction of Alzheimer’s disease and the toll it takes on not only the person who has it, but on the family and caregivers. It also is interesting to see how people in another country try to cope with having a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease and come to the conclusion that we face common challenges.  You find yourself sympathizing with the characters in the movie and realize that there’s not going to be an easy solutions for the critical decisions they face.

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    IMDb. (2011). A Separation.

Published On: March 11, 2013