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Films that show the challenges of Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Films and television programmes can evoke many emotions and lots of us seek support and shared experiences through them. If you’re caring for someone who’s living with a form of dementia, there are several great films that explore the subject of Alzheimer's disease and dementia with grace, dignity, and realism.

Here are our top picks:

1. Away From Her (2007)

Julie Christie was Oscar-nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of the main character, Fiona, a woman living with Alzheimer's who voluntarily enters a care home to avoid being a burden on Grant, her husband of 50 years. Grant visits Fiona and finds that her memory of him has deteriorated and that she's developed a close friendship with another man in the home. Grant draws upon the pure love and respect he has for Fiona to choose what will ensure his wife's happiness in the face of living with the condition.

2. Still Alice (2015)

Still Alice shows the affect that early-onset Alzheimer’s can have on a person and their family, through the eyes of Alice, the woman living with the condition. Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children, is a prominent linguistics professor who starts to forget a few words. When she receives the diagnosis of Early-Onset Alzheimer's, the bond between Alice and her family is tested. Alice’s struggle to stay connected to who she once was is heart-breaking, yet inspiring. This film beautifully captures the frustration, the fear and the anger that can come with a dementia diagnosis. A good film that depicts the need for developing empathy and understanding of what loved ones are going through.

3. The Savages (2007)

The Savages sets out to help us see the lighter side of the dementia, with Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman playing siblings caring for a parent living with dementia. A rare combination of humility, dignity, and humor. Laura Linney was Oscar-nominated for Best Actress, Tamara Jenkins was Oscar-nominated for Best Original Screenplay, while Philip Seymour Hoffman was Golden Globe-nominated for Best Actor in a Motion Picture for his performance as the neurotic professor who begrudgingly unites with his sister for the sake of their father. 

4. The Notebook (2004)

Based on Nicholas Sparks' best-selling novel of the same name, The Notebook, this movie features James Garner as Noah, the loving husband of Allie (Gena Rowlands), who is in a nursing home due to Alzheimer's disease. Noah attempts to rekindle her memories of their long history by reading to her from his notebook. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams play the couple in their younger years. Described as a true romance, the movie was directed by Nick Cassavetes, son of Gena Rowlands.

5. Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch (2001)

Based on the book Elegy for Iris by John Bayley, this movie tells the true story of English novelist Iris Murdoch's descent into Alzheimer's disease and the unconditional love of Bayley, her partner of 40 years. Jim Broadbent won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Bayley in his later years. Judi Dench and Kate Winslet received both Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively, for their portrayal of Murdoch in her older and younger years.

6. Still Mine (2012)

‘Still Mine’ follows the story of Craig Morrison (James Cromwell), an elderly farmer trying to build a new home for him and his wife, Irene (Geneviève Bujold). The unexpected hurdles that are preventing him to go through with his plan and the novel struggles that surface with Irene’s progressing dementia demands of Craig to compromise on certain things and to let go of others.   

7. The Iron Lady (2011)

The film is based in the present day and features flashbacks to Lady Thatcher’s early life, her rise to power and the defining events of her premiership and downfall. From the opening scene, where a confused and befuddled Lady Thatcher wanders into a corner shop to buy a pint of milk, the film begins to show Lady Thatcher battling with Dementia. 

8. Emmerdale (2017)

The iconic Ashley was first diagnosed with vascular dementia in autumn 2015 and loyal viewers followed his slow but steady deterioration. This created a real emotional impact on viewers, who've grown to know and love him since he arrived on screen way back in 1996. Emmerdale worked closely with people impacted by dementia and demonstrated that the condition isn’t just endless misery and bleakness. Through the heartbreak, there are moments and periods of warmth, happiness, laughter and lucidity so throughout, and viewers witnessed Ashley smile, enjoy picnics with his children, laugh with his wife Laurel, dance and have moments of recognition even when at his worst.

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