Listening to Our Bodies
INTERESTING STUFF: 24 September 2011

Alzheimer's on Television

As Ann Shaw (who blogs here) remarked on one of my flu fogged posts earlier this week:

“There's nothing like enforced rest in bed to get you thinking.”

She is right, you know. All sorts of odd and (occasionally) interesting things bubble up in between naps. I tell myself to make notes, but it's too much effort to reach for the pen on the bedside table and I drift off again; who knows where the thought goes.

Except for one. I've forgotten which evening this week I sort of watched the premier of a new TV show titled, Unforgettable. It's another police procedural, this one starring Poppy Montgomery, late of Without a Trace, as Carrie, who has a condition which gives her a freakishly detailed memory of every event of every day of her life.

I was too fuzzy-headed to know if the show is any good, but one scene stands out.

Carrie is visiting with an old woman in a residential care home. The viewer is led to believe from other interactions that perhaps Carrie volunteers there and from a short exchange, we know the old woman is an Alzheimer's patient. She says to Carrie: “You look just like my younger daughter.”

As I said, I was too fuzzy to catch the exact sequence but you know, of course, it is revealed that Carrie is her younger daughter who the woman no longer recognizes. Mother's Alzheimer's/daughter's hyper-memory – yeah, yeah, I wasn't too cotton-headed to miss the heavy-handed irony.

Nevertheless, I like this subplot. Whatever the future of the show (the networks quickly kill off new ones that are not immediate hits), it is a good thing to acknowledge as a normal part of life the afflictions people (our families, friends and neighbors) face along with the pain, sadness and difficulties they cause.

Movies, television shows, videos, magazine and news stories of all stripes, online and off, help define our culture, play it back to us and show us how people cope in such circumstances.

Documentaries – of which there are dozens about Alzheimer's - are excellent educational tools, but when the same issues are addressed within entertainment storylines, we get some small sense of the day-to-day reality which I think is particularly important for the majority who have no personal experience (yet) with it – be it Alzheimer's as in this show or other health and cultural issues - we face in our communities.

So, good for Unforgettable and let us hope there is more portrayal of real life blended into entertainment dramas.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: A Tough Old Bird


Your post brought an interesting question to mind: Do people who have superior autobiographical memory get Alzheimer's?

Actress Marilu Henner, who has superior autobiographical memory, works as a consultant to the "Unforgettable" show

Ms. Henner is supposed to make guest appearances on the show as a Carrie's aunt with early onset Alzheimer's.

Another irony?

Nothing reveals the human condition as well as fiction.

Superior autobiographical memory is so rare that only five or six people in the U.S. (including Henner) are known to have it.

With numbers like that - or lack of them - undoubtedly there is no basis in science to answer your question.

I didn't watch the show but I think that more and more shows are putting the spotlight on Alzheimer's and that's a good thing. I have personally known of two Alzheimer's patients and the toll it takes on the family is heartbreaking.

Recently read "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova. A compelling story about a women with early onset Alzheimer's. Highly recommend this book. Has anyone else read it? Maybe a good book for Ronni to consider as a topic for blog discussion. Thanks Ronni for prompting us to think--while you are suffering with flu!

From my perspective & personal experience, nothing you see on TV (especially the commercials)tells the real story. Dealing with any dementia of which Alzheimer's is only one type, is unlike anything caregivers & family deal with in real life. And the sadest thing of all is that those aflicted are so befuddled about what is not right with them that acknowledging the problem must be totally devastating. Dee

One of the episodes of my beloved BBC's "Inspector Lewis" Series, the "Dark Matter" episode, included a character with dementia in possession of clues of import. I thought their portral of the efforts to sort through the real and unreal with the character, and the effects of his situation on his family were well handled. It reminded visiting one of my grandmother's as she strolled through her past, failed to connect with her present and was angry about where she was and who she was. Then there was my mother's feelings as Grandma constantly failed to recognize her while I was her daughter. Rough times for a family.

Sorry, I meant as Grandma thought I was her daughter until she came to not recognize any of us.

As a volunteer in a nursing home, I often visited the locked area of the home which housed those suffering from Alzheimer’s. It was never easy. I don’t know what was worse, seeing the person suffering from the disease or their loved ones struggling to remember who the person once was. It certainly takes its toll on all.

My husband suffered with Alzheimer's for 7 years. I kept him at home the whole time, and was his sole caregiver until his last couple of years when hospice and a friend stepped in to help.

Of many sad moments, the most heartbreaking was one day when he lay on the bed looking miserable. I asked, "How can I help you?"

He said, "Make me alive again."

And then we held each other, and cried.

That reveals more about AD than anything else I can think of.

I read your previous week's posts and am so sorry to read of your bout with the flu. It sounds like you are on the mend and I so agree with you that if left alone our bodies heal. At least you are in a position to rest and snooze as much you need. Get better soon.

Glad you're feeling better. I never liked a lot of palaver and attention when I was ill -- "Just leave me alone!" There was the comfort of knowing I could call out to someone else in the home if need be. I came to acutely appreciate that unspoken reassuring factor after my husband died and I was truly alone.

I regularly encounter individuals with memory, other personality changes and communication issues as a consequence of medical issues. Some behaviors are similar to and can be mislabeled as dementia, or alzheimer-like. Those who also have hearing loss, and/or vision impairment can sometimes be assumed by family, some professional staff and others to have those labels when they actually don't. Important to take care making a layperson's assessment and to get a GOOD medical diagnosis.

I strongly believe that any caregiver providing in home care for someone with dementia or alzheimer's needs regular support so they can have respite time to nourish themselves. I expect there's a real need for our society to devise ways to help those who may need such support.

I recently posted some facts (and links) about AD on my

Oops, the entire comment didn't post. Facts and links on AD/dementia here.

We lost our father after an 8 struggle...and that was only after it became obvious to others. He was able to hide for a long time.

If I were a boy again, I would demand of myself more courtesy towards my companions and friends, and indeed towards strangers as well.

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