Tuesday, 10 March 2015

A Night at the Movies

I recently saw the movie Still Alice. Its about a 50 year old well-educated woman who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's Disease. So, it got me thinking. About how many people I know who have been touched by this horrible disease. About former clients. About my grandmother. And about how it must feel for the person going through the disease progression knowing that their mind will likely go well before their body. I would imagine that it must be a very scary experience and a very lonely one. There were some interesting ethical questions as well; but Hollywood being what it is, doesn't dwell on them. Still it got me thinking. There were a couple of really interesting scenes in the movie - one where the main character gives a speech about having the disease; and the other when she tells her husband that it would be better if she had cancer because people 'wear ribbons and go on walks for you' or something to that effect. It alluded to the fact that there is still stigma around 'mental illnesses' that there isn't around other diseases.

I think, the more we hear about well-known personalities with dementias and mental illnesses and the more they speak out about it, the more normalized it will become and by extension, the more support those afflicted with it will feel, because it will be okay to talk about. I think these sorts of movies help things along - provided they get the publicity they should and people go to see them. Surprisingly, despite the recent Oscar win for the main character, the theatre was empty. I wondered if the subject matter scared people away or if it just had been in the theatres too long.

There are subjects that people simply try to avoid - or at least most people do - some are afraid of doing a Will, giving a Power of Attorney, talking about certain illnesses or pre-planning a funeral. Yet all of these things are so very important and so much a part of life. I used to think it had more to do with superstition than anything else but maybe its more about the discomfort these topics hold coupled with the fear of the inevitable, that has some people avoid conversations for as long as possible. The reality is, avoiding them doesn't mean they won't happen - it just means we won't be prepared when they happen. So maybe movies like Still Alice will get people talking - as sad a story as it is, for so many it isn't a 'story' but a part of life.....

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