Why ‘Still Alice’ is a valentine to caregivers

Many critics and members of the general public anticipate that when the Academy Award winners are announced on Sunday, Julianne Moore will be taking home the best actress Oscar for her portrayal of a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s disease in “Still Alice.” Count me among them.

Moore already has earned numerous honors—including Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes trophies—for her portrayal of 50-year-old Columbia University linguistics professor Alice Howland in the film adaptation of Lisa Genova’s best-selling novel of the same name. The movie continued to open across the country on Friday, and I finally was able to see it then when it premiered in Cleveland.

I won’t include any spoilers in this blog, although the film’s trajectory will be familiar to those who have experienced dementia through family, friends or profession. Alice struggles to find the words to express herself, gets lost on a jog she has completed many times in the past and gradually sees her life changing until she appears lost in her own mind.

That familiarity is what makes “Still Alice” a love letter to professional and family caregivers everywhere. For those who have not encountered Alzheimer’s, the movie provides a glimpse into what caregivers already know: the disease’s symptoms, the tests used to help diagnose it, the coping mechanisms those with Alzheimer’s use to try to delay the inevitable decline as long as possible, the ways in which long-term living communities try to maintain safety and quality of life for those with the disease, the many ways in which caregivers react, and the small and large sacrifices people make for their loved ones.

Longer term, the film may spur benefits for the more than five million Americans who have dementia (and 39 million others around the world who have it) and for their caregivers. The My Brain movement of the Alzheimer’s Association, in conjunction with the movie’s release, is educating women and encouraging them to advocate for research funding and caregiver support. The campaign, involving Moore, “Still Alice” Executive Producer Maria Shriver and others, focuses on women because almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women, and more than 60 percent of caregivers to those who have dementia are women, according to the association.

Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, recently called for “consistent and meaningful investments in research from the federal government” so that a national goal of a cure or treatment by 2025 could be realized, and George Vradenburg, co-founder and president of USAgainstAlzheimer’s, is hoping the film can “spark the demand for more research into a cure.” Vradenburg recently said he was pleased that President Barack Obama’s 2016 proposed budget included a 3.3 percent increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health and contained other funding that could benefit Alzheimer’s disease, but he added that the budget should have included more funding for dementia research. The proposed budget contains $638 million for Alzheimer’s disease research, a nine percent increase over this year.

“Still Alice” is not a deep dive into the world of dementia, but, like 2014’s “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me,” it offers another opportunity for conversations that could lead to improved understanding, care for those with the disease, support systems for caregivers and funding for research that could lead to treatments and, ultimately, a cure.

(Update: Julianne Moore won the Oscar for her performance in Still Alice.)

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrXrZ5iiR0o

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Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia