As a personality concept for my work, I selected Alzheimer’s disease. Having analyzed the portrayal of this disease in the movie Away from Her, I should note the accuracy of the representation of this concept. The movie presents the following realistic aspects of the lives of people with Alzheimer’s disease: the challenges that they face, their experience, the experience of their family members, and the living conditions at a nursing home.
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The protagonists of the movie are an elderly couple, Grant and Fiona. Fiona starts complaining of memory lapses, and she is soon diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Being unable to perform simple tasks, feeling unsafe, Fiona decides to seek admission to a nursing home. Her disease and her decision to go to a nursing home have a dramatic effect on their family life. The rules of the nursing home require that family members pay no visits to the patients for the first 30 days to make the transition for the newly admitted clients easier. In Grant’s absence, Fiona forms strong emotional bonds with a male patient, Aubrey. The new experience makes Grant rethink his attitude to their family life, and he eventually proves to be a caring and affectionate husband.
The movie presents the challenges faced by individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease with striking accuracy. Doing simple housework, remembering details, recognizing the loved ones – all these things are a challenge for Fiona. Even her relationship with Aubrey is a challenge (“Memory Loss and Confusion” par. 3-5). The movie makes it clear that the use of the word “love” regarding this relationship is not justifiable. Such a portrayal is perfectly consistent with the realities of Alzheimer’s disease.
According to R. Powers, the chairman of the medical advisory board of the Alzheimer’s Foundation, “You have to be careful about saying ‘falling in love’… Falling in love requires memory, communication, reason, decision making – and Alzheimer’s patients no longer have many of these capabilities” (Hatfield 2). Besides, forming strong emotional bonds with other patients at a nursing facility is common for the individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease; moreover, it is even encouraged by the medical staff since it helps patients to feel better, cope with their anxiety and homesick feeling, and even make progress in recovery (Wisconsin Department of Health Services 47-48).
The experiences of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease are also portrayed accurately in the movie. For instance, it is known that such patients can move in and out of recognition when they see their family members (Elias par. 8). In the movie, such a thing happens to Fiona when she sees Grant at the nursing home. Patients with Alzheimer’s suffer frequent memory lapses and can forget recently learned information, which is exactly what Fiona demonstrates. The movie makes a viewer understand how such patients feel while being separated from home due to the need for medical care and how they react to such an abrupt change in their lives (“Anxiety and Agitation” par. 3-4). The separation anxiety of a replacement patient is depicted in the movie. The film also describes how unsafe Fiona feels because of her unpredictability, her inability to take care of herself, and her fear of the changes that the disease has brought to her life. A viewer can comprehend Fiona’s feelings and experiences as if it were their own ones.
Away from Her allows its viewers to perceive not only the experiences of the individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease but also the experiences of their family members. In case of any serious disease, the lives of the ill person’s the family members changes dramatically: they have to cope with the new circumstances, get acquainted with the symptoms and manifestations of the disease, learn quickly about the requirements of the medical staff, and, above all, do these things while feeling abandoned, exhausted, and nearly forgotten by their ill relative. In the movie, Grant goes through all these disasters. He is feeling abandoned and forgotten by Fiona: not only has she moved to a nursing home, but she has also found herself another man. Following the way of many relatives of the people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Grant moves from anger and jealousy to compassion and devotion (Cicero 78-79). When Aubrey is taken away from the nursing home, Grant does his best to return him because his absence makes Fiona depressed.
Finally, the movie portrays life at a nursing home with accurate details. Some viewers may think that it is cruel and unrealistic that the administration of the nursing home does not allow family members to visit the patients within the first 30 days. In fact, it is a real practice adopted in many nursing homes. Clinicians consider that it is the best way to ease the transition, especially for patients with such diseases as Alzheimer’s. As S. Gravenstein, a geriatric physician, says, “If you allow visits, they may spend hours waiting by the door and then begging relatives to take them home” (Elias par. 6).
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In conclusion, the movie Away from Her presents an accurate portrayal of the concept of Alzheimer’s disease. It depicts the challenges and experiences faced by such patients and their families, as well as life at a nursing home, with a substantial degree of accuracy.
Anxiety and Agitation. n.d. Web.
Cicero, Caroline. “Solidarity and Ambivalence in Away from Her.” Journal of Aging, Humanities, and the Arts 3.1 (2009): 78-80. Print.
Elias, Marilyn. “‘Away From Her’ captures sad realities of Alzheimer’s.” USA Today 2007. USA Today. Web.
Hatfield, Heather. “The Emotional Toll of Alzheimer’s.” WebMD 2008. WebMD. Web.
Memory Loss and Confusion. n.d. Web.
Wisconsin Department of Health Services 2014, Quality of Life Outcomes for People with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia: Care planning tool for providers. PDF file.Web.