When a loved one receives an Alzheimer’s diagnosis the whole family is affected. For most, the first stage is utter devastation. Yet the human spirit can be incredibly resilient. After going through the grieving process, the person diagnosed with the disease and his or her loved ones most often come to accept their altered life as a new normal.
Many people do more than just soldier on. They go to great lengths to show others that an Alzheimer’s diagnosis isn’t the end. They have no choice but to live with the disease so they truly live with it, proceeding onward to do what they can to enjoy life as it is.
While many ordinary people do extraordinary things to show that people living with Alzheimer’s can still lead a purposeful life, celebrities and those connected to the media tend be the ones who are nationally recognized simply because of who they are or what they do.
This fall, we can benefit from seeing two more examples of people who have used their unique status in life as opportunities to spotlight how people can and do go about living with Alzheimer’s.
** “The Genius of Marian” on PBS **
POV Communications will present "The Genius of Marian: a Family Rediscovers Its Blessings in the Midst Of Coping With a Devastating Disease" on September 8, 2014.
According to the PBS press release, "The Genius of Marian" is a visually rich, emotionally complex story about one family’s struggle to come to terms with Alzheimer’s disease.
"After Pam White is diagnosed at age 61 with early-onset Alzheimer’s, life begins to change, slowly but irrevocably, for Pam and everyone around her. Her husband grapples with his role as it evolves from primary partner to primary caregiver. Pam’s adult children find ways to show their love and support while mourning the gradual loss of their mother. Her eldest son, Banker, records their conversations, allowing Pam to share memories of childhood and of her mother, the renowned painter Marian Williams Steele, who herself had Alzheimer’s and died in 2001."
Peter Keough of the Boston Globe says the film is "An affecting, lyrical documentary " Mixing the past and present"the film mirrors the decline of [Pam’s] faculties but affirms the persistence of memory and identity."
I’ve watched several excellent productions about Alzheimer’s on PBS, one of the best being "You’re Looking at Me Like I Live Here and I Don’t." "The Genius of Marian" promises to be as powerful and intriguing as the others. Check your local PBS listings for the time in your area.
"Glen Campbell " I’ll Be Me" in theaters
After Guitarist/singer/songwriter Glen Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, most people thought his career was over. Campbell was determined to prove them wrong. He began a 151-show tour. While many respectfully but realistically predicted that the tour would only last a few weeks, Campbell and his family completed a full year of sold-out performances across the country. This tour resulted in "Glen Campbell " I’ll Be Me," a documentary directed by actor-filmmaker James Keach. The film won the grand jury prize after premiering last spring at the Nashville Film Festival.
"Glen Campbell " I’ll Be Me" documents Campbell’s extraordinary talent even as he coped with the unpredictable twists and turns of Alzheimer’s disease. That Campbell and his family of musicians would consider music the best therapy isn’t surprising, however the tenaciousness of Campbell and his family is. Music has been, and will continue to be, Campbell’s “medicine of choice.”
While millions of people struggle with the reality of Alzheimer’s disease daily, most don’t have a voice that will be heard by millions of people who could benefit from information about Alzheimer’s disease. These people and their families can, at the very least, feel that in some small way their own voices are being channeled through documentaries such as "The Genius of Marian" and “Glen Campbell " I’ll Be Me.”
Alzheimer’s disease is no longer about hiding Grandma away in the back bedroom. It has come around to boldly face millions of people thorough our entertainment industry. Bravo to those who continue to spread the word that millions are living with Alzheimer’s disease and making a difference.
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver who spent more than two decades caring for a total of seven elders. She is a newspaper columnist and the author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. Bradley Bursack is also a contributor to several books on caregiving and dementia, and is passionate about preserving the dignity of elders. Her website is www.mindingourelders.com. Follow Carol on Twitter @mindingourelder and on Facebook at Minding Our Elders.