I watched this movie with great expectations it would bring awareness to dementia. It was an incredible depiction of the descent into dementia and how it affects everyone. Anthony Hopkins was brilliant in the role, and yes, it accurately depicted dementia breaks with reality.
But it was the end that really got me angry.
Don’t get me wrong, in so many ways, this movie does live up to my expectations. The protagonist’s denial, fear, and confusion, and the stress and helplessness of the family. The hallucinations keep the viewer trying to figure out what is real or not throughout the movie until the end where he wakes up in a nursing home.
This is where I found myself angry and livid. For 15 years, I conducted training on improving communication with those with dementia for staff and resident families in over a hundred facilities. As a dementia advocate, I have fought for many years to create awareness that the present eldercare system is antiquated for the new Baby Boomer generation of seniors who will undoubtedly reside in them, especially those with dementia. So many are overcrowded, understaffed, and don’t provide individual attention beyond the necessary physical care. Their activities programs are ancient relics of a post-WWII generation, and filling in coloring books is not my idea of mental stimulation. Some newer facilities and programs are just beginning to appear, but in relationship to the number of facilities with the old systems, they are far and few between.
For instance, person-centered care is a beautiful concept that includes the individual needs of each resident and the needs of the staff. The Butterfly homes is another based on smaller facilities with a very homelike atmosphere and care. Eden Alternative was an early forerunner of reform and still continues to educate and certify facilities to making their environments more human-friendly.
But In the movie, they depicted a nurse comforting him in his distress. I’m still unsure if she was the facility nurse or privately hired by the family, which would be unlikely. This wasn’t clear. However, if she was the facility nurse, that scene would never have happened. Nurses dispense meds and check the health status of residents. They seldom visit socially, and it is the CNA’s that would get him up and dress. They, like the nurses, wouldn’t have time to offer to take a stroll in the garden to calm him.
This scenario was unrealistic, and I felt it promoted placement in facilities. It depicted how horrific the situation at home was for the family and how much better it was after he was placed, for them and for him. The nurse was so loving and compassionate, and although there are employees like this, they often burned out with the workload. Although there are many caring nurses in facilities, to my personal experience, I never once witnessed a busy, work overloaded nurse have time to have this type of interaction. So, I loved the realism of the script up to the finale. The ending was not realistic, and I hated it.