One day Honna mailed me an article about senile dementia. She'd found it interesting and thought I might, too. She was right. I phoned her right away.
"I got the senility article," I told her.
"What senility article?" she replied.
We thought the exchange was hilarious.
It took place thirty years ago.
Since then, each of us has lost her mother to Alzheimer's dementia. Far from hilarious, for us (and for me more than for her), forgetting anything at all has become concerning. We know that everyone forgets things and we know that this increases with age. We know this. And yet we wonder, "Is this how it starts? Has it begun to happen to me?"
So it was with tremendous courage last night that I watched a movie called "Away From Her." Joe and I had seen previews of it when it was in the theatres, but it got away from us (no, we didn't forget to go), so we put it on the Netflix queue. I was afraid it would upset me. It did. But not in the way I anticipated.
What a disappointing and unrealistic film! Let me list my complaints:
...The idea that an educated and intelligent person with Alzheimer's would deliberately choose to move away from her home of many, many years and into an unfamiliar place, away from the anchor of family. Ludicrous.
...The care facility's policy that no one, NO ONE, can visit the patient for the first thirty days. This radically contradicts good practice, where the importance of familial connections is stressed.
...The notion that the patient would lose her long-term memory, i.e., of her husband, that quickly and yet preserve her short-term memory, i.e., of her new attachment. Again and again the sick woman was shown with the recent past intact and detailed while the distant past was expunged. People with this disease remember the past as though it were yesterday and remember yesterday not at all.
...The unfailing gentility of the patient -- there was no evidence of frustration early on, and no indication of intense mood swings later on.
Though the film received overwhelmingly good reviews, one writer spoke of it as a "Hallmark card" about Alzheimer's. So right on.