Alzheimer’s Disease is a devastating illness which affects 30 million people worldwide. This disease develops gradually over time and worsens with every year; it destroys past memories and cognitive functions. AD impairs its victim and gradually makes them less of a person and more of a hollowed shell with no life experiences or knowledge of how to perform daily tasks (of which they can remember).
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Alzheimer’s Disease is one of the most difficult mental illnesses a person can face; it affects not only the patient but the support system as well, and also leads to many other mental difficulties. In the motion picture production Still Alice the two directors, Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer along with actress Julianne Moore, show the audience a first- hand experience of the development and heartbreak Alzheimer’s Disease inflicts upon its sufferer. Still Alice presented the illness in a negative light but with a vast amount of truth as to not romanticize the illness; the film did a very good job of portraying the facts of the disease and its impacts.
To really grasp all that Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) endures on the road to mental destruction one must truly understand the shattering aspects of Alzheimer’s Disease. According to the “Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms in Alzheimer’s Disease.” “…depression, apathy, aggression and psychosis are now recognized core features of Alzheimer’s Disease.” (Xiao-Ling) Other symptoms of AD include, but are not limited too: gradual memory loss, lack of sleep, a creation of dependence, the inability to recognize loved ones, and death. Xiao-Ling also states in her article “Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms in Alzheimer’s Disease.”, “The neuropsychiatry symptoms in the early stages of AD are predictive of more rapid deterioration and cognitive function…there are genes associated with specific symptoms or symptom clusters.” This means that AD symptoms are more regular from patient to patient in its early stages. Certain gene types can help doctors predict how AD will affect a specific patient; however, as AD progresses this ability to anticipate these progressive symptoms becomes less possible.
Alzheimer’s Disease is like a dark entity that robs a person of their memories over and over again. In the disease’s early stages few memories are taken and as time with the disease continues, the more often memories are stolen. This results in the mind being wiped completely clean. Melinda E. T??th states in her literature “Early symptoms of AD include disturbances in short- term episodic memory and problems with attention and spatial orientation.” (“Overexpression of Hsp27 Ameliorates Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease in APP/PS1 Mice.”) Meaning the disease starts off with forgetting the short term memories which just happened, affecting the episodic memory, then progresses to the long- term memories and ability to perform actions. Alzheimer’s Disease can be described as an episodic illness.
Around 40% of patients will develop depression within the first five years. Xiao-Ling describes in her research that AD combined with depression creates a greater decline in the patient’s clinical outcome and condition. Agitation, aggression, and apathy all also contribute to speeding up the progression of the disease. And psychosis which includes symptoms like delusions and hallucinations are said to be “the most salient and serious neuropsychiatric symptoms associated…” also described by Xiao-Ling. (“Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms in Alzheimer’s Disease.”)
People who experience the disease are said to be in the later years of life. According to the Mayo Clinic, as said in the article “Alzheimer’s Disease” “the rate doubles every year after the age of 60”. In the article “Overexpression of Hsp27 Ameliorates Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease in APP/PS1 Mice.” it is also confirmed that Alzheimer’s is “one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases, and its prevalence is strongly correlated with age” (T??th, Melinda E.) The disease not only affects those in their later ages but also affects those with down syndrome, past head trauma, a lower education, predominantly females, and those with a family history. However, less than five percent of Alzheimer’s patients have an actual gene for the disease. Scientist are not one hundred percent sure what exactly leads to the development of AD. Many seem to believe it is a mixture of genetics, environment, and lifestyle factors.
People who experience AD are diagnosed, manage the disease to the best of their ability, and eventually die of the disease. The disease is not something a patient can get better from, it is life lasting and leads to a fatality. Alzheimer’s is a mental illness that affects the mind. However, there is evidence of the disease’s physical effects on patients. Alzheimer’s can be detected with the use of memory tests and pet scans. When a person develops AD their brain cells degenerate and die. This can be shown on pet scans. Death occurs, due to Alzheimer’s Disease, when cell damage reaches the brain’s control center for breathing. This rarely happens as most Alzheimer’s patients die of an infection before the disease can actually cause death. Alzheimer’s patients are more prone to develop other health conditions and are not always compliant or remember to keep up with medications and treatment, therefore they will most likely develop separate infections. There are very little treatment options available for Alzheimer’s patients. In the article “Pharmacological Characterization of Memoquin, a Multi-Target Compound for the Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.” it is said by author Valeria Capurro that there are only three available medications for AD. These medications only aid in slowing down the progression of the diseases and do not work on everybody.
Alzheimer’s Disease, just as any other mental illness, has stigmas. A misconception is that many believe early diagnosis can result in full reversing/remission of the disease. This is, sadly, wrong. The article “Alzheimer’s Misconceptions” states that “Early diagnosis and treatment can only help to provide some relief and give those involved enough time.” The article continues on to explain that speech skills and language will, in fact, be something lost over time. Another misconception is that the development of AD is normal for the aging process. This is also wrong as only one in five people will develop a dementia- related disorder and only some memory loss is what occurs in most elderly people.
The film, Still Alice, is the story of Dr. Alice Howland, a Columbia professor who is described by her colleagues as the Lilian Young of linguistics, and her diagnosis with Alzheimer’s Disease. Alice is very wealthy and successful living wither her husband in New York, where they raised their three children Lydia, Tom, and Anna, when she is diagnosed with early- onset Alzheimer’s Dementia. Alice is one of the world’s five percent of people who have Alzheimer’s and tests positive for the actual allele which causes the disease. Throughout the plot of the film Alice transitions from a very successful, intelligent professor to a confused and suicidal AD patient. Eventually, she becomes a woman who is so disabled she cannot even recognize her own children, know where she is, or even speak.
The movie Still Alice, portrays the disease in a negative light. The movie uses factual examples to describe the deterioration of Alice’s mind and shows the heartbreak people endure with this disease. For example, when Alice is first being diagnosed the doctor explains that her pet scan shows red areas which are high beta-amyloid that restrict the cognitive function.
The film also shows Alice’s rapid decline in areas of her life where she started to become incredibly dependent. In one scene, Alice is getting ready to go on a run with her husband when, just before they plan to leave, she tries to use the bathroom. Alice’s mind has deteriorated so far at this point that she cannot find the bathroom in her own home and ends up soiling herself. Another example is throughout the movie Alice creates a list in her phone of questions she must answer every day. On the list, it is typed that when she can no longer answer all the personal questions she must watch a video on her computer titled “Butterfly.” The video is a set of instructions Alice left her future self on how to commit suicide. However, Alice drops the medication and forgets what she was supposed to be doing and never actually dies.
In the final scene, Alice’s husband leaves her in the care of their daughter Lydia, as he can no longer take care of Alice. Lydia is reading one of her plays to Alice, one she knew the meaning behind when she was lucid. Her mind has deteriorated to such a far extent that when Lydia asks her what the play is about she cannot recognize her daughter and can barely remember how to say the word “love”. The last example from Still Alice of how painful the disease can be for families is in this case of Familial Alzheimer’s Disease. The early- onset type that Alice has includes the presence of a genetic factor. Alice’s other daughter Anna is pregnant and gets tested for the genetic factor. It is discovered that Anna is positive for the disease and will, in fact, get develop AD as well.
In the motion picture production, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are clearly conveyed. Alice specifically endures symptoms such as depression and suicidal ideologies, lack of sleep, memory loss, dependence, and inability to speak and make new memories. The movie also accurately displays the science involved with the disease as well as its effects on other people around the sufferer. A review from Liam Lacey posted to the “Rotten Tomatoes” website describes the movie as accurate and compassionate. He states “anyone who has known someone with Alzheimer’s will appreciate the film’s sincere intentions.” Lacey also continues on to say that the movie mastered the list of symptoms as if it was checking off the boxes on a medical chart– leaving out only “paranoia, anger and physical deterioration.” (“Julianne Moore masters Alzheimer’s disappearing act in Still Alice”). Michael Elliot, another movie reviewer, from “IMDb” states that he enjoyed how the camera was used to show when Alice was forgetting. The camera made the frame blurry as she deteriorated and then would clear up as she slipped back into lucidity. Shown in Eliot’s opinion, the directors did an excellent job of making the audience understand the pain in Alzheimer’s. He goes on to state that “Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland handle the material with a very sensitive touch and rarely do they throw in any comedy.” (“Moore Completely Becomes This Challenging Role”)
Alzheimer’s Disease is a mental illness that steals away everything that makes a person who they are over a long and grueling time period. The film production Still Alice does an excellent job of portraying the impact the illness has on everyone affected. After watching the movie I was, personally, stunned. The film is so emotional and gripping it truly makes you feel what families go through who have someone affected by the illness. It really makes the audience understand how detrimental Alzheimer’s Disease is. Lastly, it should be reiterated once more that Alzheimer’s Disease is one of the most painful mental illnesses any person could have to endure.
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