We previously shared our top five movies that show how aging can be beautiful. Today, we want to offer our recommendations for movies about dementia and caregiving.
Caregiving can seem like a movie sometimes, filled with twists and turns. The experience is a mix of drama, suspense, and hopefully a little bit of comedy. Caregiving is often the ultimate love story too. And, dementia feels like a surreal experience for everyone involved. Families face struggles, sometimes heartbreaking decisions, and find themselves on a truly unexpected journey. Movies can give you a new perspective on something that can be hard to understand. A good movie can help you feel the emotions involved.
Recommended Movies about Dementia and Caregiving
Probably one of the quintessential movies about dementia and its progression, this drama is based on Lisa Genova's bestselling novel. The film stars Julianne Moore as a linguistics professor diagnosed with familial Alzheimer's disease at age 50.
It portrays the day-to-day realizations and challenges of a person with early-onset dementia. Her memory fades and she attempts to use various coping tools to manage. We watch the steady unraveling of self as she must give up work and even struggles to recognize family. The film also deals with the realities of suicide, watching a spouse decline, and genetic testing.
Away from Her
Like many movies about dementia, this one portrays the effects of the disease on relationships. It also illustrates clearly how each patient and family bring a lifetime of history into their situation.
The story centers on a long-married couple, Grant and Fiona, as she begins to develop dementia and moves into a nursing home. The facility has a policy of not allowing any visitors for the 1st 30 days (something that we, like one of the staff in the movie, disagree with). When Grant starts to visit, he finds Fiona has developed a close relationship with another resident, Aubrey. He continues to visit despite her focus being mostly on Aubrey. Grant often talks with one of the staff members about the situation and even wonders if Fiona’s dementia might be her way of punishing him for past hurts.
When Aubrey moves out of the facility, Fiona falls into a deep depression and deteriorates. We won’t say more so we don’t spoil the rest. This is one of our recommended movies about dementia both for showing tricky situations that are not uncommon and for its heartbreaking and beautiful love story.
The Savages shows some of the darkly humorous moments and struggles of dementia caregiving. And, once again, it also reveals the characters involved for the complex humans they are. For those of us who work with families dealing with dementia, these portrayals are so important to remind us that not everyone can or will deal with situations the same way. And, that we are all more than a disease or the current situation we’re facing.
Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman play siblings who suddenly find themselves caring for their father who has dementia and with whom they’ve been estranged. The film doesn’t shy away from gritty realities. The various characters are portrayed with a combination of humility, dignity, and humor.
This is a new film, starring Anthony Hopkins. The synopsis reads: “A man refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality.”
Not only is it filled with beautiful performances, it comes from the perspective of the person with dementia. It is real and poignant. It is an unsparing portrayal of dementia and aging and the human condition more broadly.
I Care A Lot
To change things up, check out this black comedy that’s quite a departure from the usual dramas typical of movies about dementia. More of a crime film, I Care A Lot follows a professional guardian with the worst intentions as she takes advantage of a woman she thinks is the perfect victim. We see the network of professionals that have profited from this woman’s schemes and it’s a scary reminder of the potential for elder abuse and exploitation. But, the action-packed film takes many turns.
Less focused on dementia or family caregiving, underneath the humor and action this film provokes some thought about the guardianship system, abuses, and protections. Thankfully, the story is far from the reality of the many kind people who assist elders. Unfortunately, most elder exploitation and abuse happens at the hands of family members. However, there have been cases, while perhaps not quite this extraordinary, of guardianships gone wrong.
You can find all of our articles about Alzheimer’s/dementia here.
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