What "Still Alice" Tell Us About Dementia

Most of the dementia stories were told from the viewpoint of the caregiver or a family member.  Nothing is more compelling than to learn more about the condition directly from the sufferer. Telling it from the inside out is what the film sought to do when it decided to turn its lens on Alice Howland who gave a haunting and heart-wrenching recount of her increasingly visible symptoms of dementia to the audience.

Alice was a Columbia University professor; thriving and highly functioning intellectual. She just turned 50 years old when she was diagnosed with aggressive early-onset dementia. Throughout the film, she takes the viewers through her emotional journey -- forgetting names, getting lost in familiar surroundings (including within her own house), and struggling to remember her identity.

While cognitively still abled and also at her doctor's suggestion, Alice delivered a speech at an Alzheimer's conference; verbally documenting her experience with the disease; the progression, loss of control, feelings of loss and confusion. As someone who had experienced these symptoms, the disease can be debilitating and can make communication extraordinarily hard.

The film also bubbled up a hard truth about care responsibility among the family members. Caring for older person with limited daily self-care activities is one thing but combined that with dementia, it heightened the  level of care to an entiely different level.  In the film, the family deliberated long and hard before eventually accepting Alice’s stillness. Caregiver stress is a major concern; and supporting the children, spouse and family of dementia patients is just as important as caring for the person with dementia. With end stage dementia, other issues become important such as nutritional status, aggression, agitation and even safety issues.

Finally, the film debunked the myth that dementia only affects the elderly. Alice was only 50 when she was clinically diagnosed. While younger people developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease has a lower incidence, the risk increases with age.

For support on how to live and care for a person with dementia, our Hua Mei Dementia Care System (HMDCS) provides an integrated system of medical, social and emotional care to elders with dementia as well as to the caregivers and family members.  The Foundation also run workshops on "Fundamentals of Caregiving for Elderly with Dementia" to better equip families and caregivers with knowledge and understanding as well as provide a place to share and exchange ideas of care. By putting a support system like the HMDCS can stave off some of the isolation that Alice experienced in the movie.


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