Sunday, 8 April 2012

Dementia in the movies.

Saw another movie about dementia yesterday.

Well, it wasn't ONLY about dementia. But I can't help myself: I tend to hunt out and focus on the condition.
Looking into our future maybe? Hunting for clues to see how far along Okaasan is in this strange half-life?

The movie was actually Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, the prime minister who held Britain by the neck in the 1980s when I was at university and just starting work. Excellent movie. Streep was very good. Strange though to see MY youth up there on the big screen. My past became history already. :-)

The film concentrates on Thatcher as she is now: with dementia, with flashbacks to her public past. Living now alone with a housekeeper, police guards at the front door and fretting care by daughter Carol. Dear Mark is away in South Africa, getting lost and conniving with private armies.
Thatcher spends her days in the company of a hallucination of husband Dennis.

When I see a portrayal of dementia or videos uploaded by families and carers/doctors on YouTube - I am transfixed.
Is THAT what Okaasan does? Yes! Yes! That funny shuffling, tilting walk. That endless looking at things again and again, the tuning out of conversations and then the moments of clarity.

I felt this movie did a good depiction of dementia. From the outside usually ok, to the self absolutely ok and puzzled by the actions and words of others - and then suddenly veering off into strangeness.
In one scene Thatcher attends a dinner party of old political friends, she is in her element after Carol primes her on who will be there.
During dinner she zones out of the chitchat a bit, but when brought back into it all and asked her opinion on the latest terrorist bombing she is knowledgeable and eloquent.
Later upstairs Carol helps her undress and get ready for bed: Thatcher asks for Dear Mark, "send him up after he's kissed the children goodnight, I must talk to him"...and we see the veering off. Mark lives in South Africa, he hasn't been here in this house to talk to, for years.

I don't think Okaasan has hallucinations about her dead husband...or more likely her much dearer dead father. But, but...I always see these scenes and think this is what is ahead for us.

In OUR present: Yujiro came home suddenly yesterday - stayed a night and has now gone away again. A few more overnight trips to go till the end of the ski season.
Last night we had a threesome family dinner, lunchtime today we went out to a suburban shopping mall for a noodle lunch.
Okaasan fussed around about going out; going back inside the house several times for real or imaginary forgotten items. Last week she cme back into the house FOUR times, before finally setting out for a walk. Today I helped her buy vests and pants in the store, guiding her through her decision making about which items she wanted. Ordinary stuff takes a long time...


  1. I have just spent a week immersed in the unreal acute care world of a loved one suffering from alzheimers. With the psychosis, confusion, hallucinations, aggresion et al. Horrific! The movie was a good depiction of milder demetia.

  2. Really? awful...the aggression is what I fear most - and certainly a year or two ago when we were having a hard time with Okaasan (and her with us obviously!) we saw flashes of it - the accusations, the stony face, the was like a different person and I do all I can to keep her happy and muddling along in life.
    Yes, dementia in the movies....more accute forms make better cinema because there is more strange behaviour to see...but Mrs Thatcher's milder form was well depicted.
    Many students/friends are still surprised that I say Okaasan goes shopping alone etc, because of course she CAN do that still - only this week she has bought yogurt every single day!