alt=a woman sitting on a couch, leans forward toward a TV casting a glow on her. The book Still Alice is on the table in front of her.

Alzheimer's and the Big Screen

Anthony Hopkins recently won an Oscar for his betrayal of a gentleman with Alzheimer’s disease in the movie "The Father." Several years ago, Julianne Moore won an Oscar for her portrayal of a younger woman with Alzheimer’s disease in the movie "Still Alice." While I haven’t seen "The Father," I definitely saw the movie Still Alice. I also read the book Still Alice by Lisa Genova.

Seeing myself in media

Shortly after my diagnosis, a friend that had Alzheimer’s recommended I read Lisa’s book. He thought I would find it enlightening. He told me that I would recognize myself in the book and I certainly did. In fact, there were several times while reading this book I made an audible sigh and had to stop reading. It was the first time I had seen myself with Alzheimer’s disease.

It took many attempts to get through the book, but it was so worth it. I urged my family to read it, but no one wanted to read it. They knew what I was going through and didn’t really want to read about it firsthand.

Seeing the Still Alice movie

But when the movie came out, I asked my husband, son, and daughter-in-law to go with me to see it. I wasn’t sure how they would react. I wasn’t sure how I was going to react.

There was one scene in the movie where Alice’s daughter has a baby and the son-in-law isn’t sure that Alice should hold the baby. Alice’s response was something like "I can certainly hold a baby." I started to cry because I had been thinking about this scenario for some time. My son and daughter-in-law would be starting a family soon and I was afraid they wouldn’t let me hold the baby either. I had never voiced this concern before because it never came up, but when I saw it in the movie it hit home hard. Since the movie, our son and daughter-in-law have blessed us with two wonderful grandchildren and yes -- I get to hold them!

Researching Alzheimer's for Still Alice

After I initially read the book, I was introduced to the author, Lisa Genova. I was thrilled to meet her and I now consider her to be a dear friend.

Although this book is fiction, Lisa is a neuroscientist. She graduated from Bates College with a degree in biopsychology and received her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard University. Lisa’s grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s so she found this as inspiration to write the book.

She is a research expert. When she was writing Still Alice, she lurked around in some online chat rooms where some of us were talking about our diagnosis and ways to help each other. She learned a lot and I was happy to know that in some way I may have helped her. Since Still Alice, Lisa has authored five more books on neurological issues including Huntington’s disease, Autism, and ALS, among others. She has a brand new book out called “Remember”. Yes, it is about the science of remembering. I have read the book three times and learn something new every time. Even if you don’t have Alzheimer’s, I found this book to be a good read.

Did you read Still Alice or see the movie and, if so, how do you think it reflected Alzheimer's? Share in the comments below.

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