Film Provides Realistic Peek at Dementia

You're Looking At Me Like I Live Here And I Don't Alzheimer's FilmI just watched the one-hour film “You’re Looking At Me Like I Live Here And I Don’t” from director Scott Kirschenbaum on PBS with the Independent Lens series, and it provided as accurate a depiction of Alzheimer’s disease as I have ever seen presented anywhere.

What an interesting perspective this film shows – no narrator, no commentary, no experts or doctors pontificating. Just one hour shown in the life of a woman named Lee Gorewitz afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease from the Alzheimer’s care unit in which she resides. Occasionally you can hear someone off-camera asking a question, but mostly you hear Lee herself rambling on. And ramble she does, all the while making little sense with her odd comments and constant barrage of chatter.

This reminded me so much of my own mother in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s. She and Lee shared some very similar habits – the roaming and constant movement, the mood swings and mixed emotions, the utter confusion at times, playing with dolls and stuffed animals, the anger expressed towards her children.

The film showed the childlike exuberance and heartbreaking reality both, switching back and forth indiscriminately. Lee dances so sweetly to music one minute, then curls up on her bed and lets out a gut wrenching wail after confessing, “Suddenly I’m tired, and I don’t know why I keep doing this.” She compassionately comes to the aid of another female resident and pushes her around in her wheelchair for comfort, then quickly turns and lashes out angrily at a man by hissing, “You are going to die.”

If you don’t have a clue how devastating Alzheimer’s disease can be, this film will get you up to speed very quickly. Search for it on your PBS station under “Independent Lens,” I highly recommend it.

I’ve noticed no one dares to show end-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Early to mid-stage seems to be much safer and more acceptable territory to explore.  When will someone be brave enough to prepare others for the end-stage of Alzheimer’s? This is the stage that is the hardest to witness and bear. I’m thinking no one may ever show end-stage because this disease is so cruel at the end. Here is what I’m left wondering – where is Lee Gorewitz today? This film was shot in 2009, almost three years ago. Is Lee Gorewitz still struggling in her own private dementia hell or has Alzheimer’s claimed her life? You can’t help but love her and feel for her after watching this film, and an update on her current status would have been a nice touch.

Following is a clip of the film. Have you watched this film? If so, what did you think and take away from it?

Watch For Lee Gorewitz, Living With Alzheimer’s is an Odyssey on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

Photo and video courtesy of PBS

Brought To Our Senses family saga novel by Kathleen H. Wheeler