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‘Still Alice’: A Movie for Families Confronting Alzheimer’s


I was glad to hear that Julianne Moore won for best actress in Still Alice.

Julianne Moore recently won a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her leading role in the movie Still Alice. She fully deserved it. The movie and novel by the same name is about a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s. It shows the world what the disease feels like for the 5.4 million Americans who have it.Still Alice

Still Alice might just be the movie that ignites a movement and changes how we view those with cognitive impairment and neurodegenerative diseases. It certainly resonated with me. I am a Certified Dementia Practitioner and work as a Harbor Care Director at the Atrium at Cardinal Drive, a Benchmark Senior Living community.

Understanding Together

All families are different when confronting Alzheimer’s. However, when occasional memory loss turns chronic and then into a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, the reactions can be all over the map.

I remember one middle-aged son who fought the idea of bringing his mother to an assisted living community. When she lived at home, he visited his mother twice a day, every morning and every evening, and truly believed he was doing the best for her. That is, until he visited the memory care wing at my senior living community. The son was blown away by how engaged the residents were.

The day he visited we were exploring a resident engagement box called “A Day at the Beach.” While interacting with the real-life materials in the box, residents can sink their fingers into a container of sand, rub suntan lotion on their arms and touch seashells while listening to the sounds of waves—a multiplex brain-wave orchestra that accesses multiple parts of the brain’s processes simultaneously. The activity taps into various parts of the resident’s brain processes, including emotional responses, intellectual thoughts, old memories—and the formation of new ones.

Once the son could see how an Alzheimer’s program engages residents, he was convinced. His mother moved in shortly after.

Learning  and Living

Still, there are other families confronting Alzheimer’s who believe in the myth that people with dementia can’t learn new things. That’s just not true. In my experience, we have been able to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s for many residents by creating an environment that helps them feel secure, comfortable, and successful, every day.

Perhaps the best thing we do for families with Alzheimer’s is to give them the opportunity to be sons and daughters and parents again, and not be overstretched because of their caregiving duties. If Still Alice teaches us anything, it’s that those with Alzheimer’s and other memory impairments can stay active and engaged when they are supported by a caring staff, specialized programs, and a neighborhood designed just for them. I know. I see it every day. Stop by for a visit and you will too.

Heather Jagodowski, CDP
Benchmark Senior Living

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