Extreme love - dementia
Louis Theroux, in turn, the documentary journalist, in his film "Extreme Love: Dementia" from 2012 is taking you on a journey to the US along with few demented characters and their families. He tries to look into the eye of the insidious illness and find out how the sufferers could be cared about and… still loved.
Nancy Vaughan is a charming and lively old lady at nearly 90, still presenting much of allure when she was a model in New York back in a day. Now, she has trouble remembering her own name, or the fact that she is married to her wonderful, manly husband - John who her sole carer. Nancy is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's.
When John poses the question "Nancy, what is your name?" she looks a bit bewildered. Asked for her surname, Nancy retorts "Bread", and John silently comments that it actually was "Johnson".
Nancy and John's life has become exasperating in numerous ways. John wears a name tag with his name on it to help Nancy identify him. The couple are not in the financial position to have Nancy go into a care home. Therefore it is what it is. "I love the whole… system" says Nancy trying to sum up her situation. The most moving section of the film is when Louis is designed to become Nancy’s caretaker for a couple of hours while the husband leaves to get some "fresh air". When Louis questions "What should I do?", John retorts… "Just improvise…"
One of the other characters is Gary Gilliam. A 69-year old, Gary had been a successful dentist and though his memory came and went, he spends much of his time under the false feeling that he is still a practising dentist, employed at some kind of a top-secret facility. Gary is a mischievous, comical guy. But from time to time he freezes. And there comes the realisation that something is not OK. The nursing staff rather than contradict him, would gently go along with his version of events. And the best phrase to redirect him is to say "Can you please have a look at my teeth doctor?" The effect is immediate. Gary says "Open wide, please" and there we go on the right track again.…. His wife tells that Gary does not recognise her as a wife but rather a dental surgery assistant or a receptionist of his former practice. That is really painful, but "love should endure all" she explains.
Gail, who used to be a cardiac nurse and had a very stressful job, cannot speak in sentences any longer, though she seems to be physically well. She walks along the corridors, endlessly repeating incomprehensive sounds like "gulla, gulla".
Her son David tries to refresh her memory by showing old photos. Unfortunately she hardly recognizes the photos or the son, himself. But from time to time there comes a ray of light, she makes a smile and comes up to Dave putting her palms on his cheeks. That is comforting and extremely moving - it is like someone would allow a gesture to happen just to take pity on the helpless human being only to take it away just in seconds, making the perpetrator incoherent again.
Department of Foreign Languages
Did you liked it?
Check Piotr's previous articles:
Oh! Women in science...
The Edge of Life
E. H. — the Vampire of Silicon Valley
Ladies and gentlemen - This is water!
Kisses in a box
Tricks and manipulation strategies the humans employ