Dementia – Hollywood’s Finally Starting to Get It Right


Dementia, as a plot device for television or film, has never quite lived up to the reality. Usually played for sobbing sympathy or just a tragic underscore to a character, the story line usually leaves out the stumbling’s of the caregivers and their associated confused introduction to their new roles. Rarely do we get to see the conflicted person make their way through to becoming the care-giving person they will become.

That is until now.

Maybe it is us Baby Boomers confronting the Dementias and Alzheimer’s of our parents in sufficient numbers as to make this a public concern. Whatever the cause, Hollywood is finally taking notice and beginning to give respectable attention to the conditions and their related personal fallout.

The latest season of Criminal Minds has had an ongoing story-line about a character’s dealings with his mother’s development of Alzheimer’s Disease.

What has been remarkable is that the writers have carried the story-line over many episodes that mimic a real-time flow of events. No neat and tidy resolutions at the end of the hour either.

For a television series with story-lines that revolve around the horrific and cruel possibilities in the world (I have actually stopped watching a few episodes because the subject got so intense that it was not worth the discomfort to stay to the ending), to have such an honest story embedded caught me by surprise. And in true Criminal Minds’ fashion, the story started pushing buttons that I think only a caregiver could ever understand.

Dementia Criminal Minds televisionMany elements of the story stir memories and feelings in me that I thought I had already worked through. Things like the conflicted thoughts and emotions when you want to be the best son and realize that to do so means having to take some profound actions that removes you forever from that golden light. Hard, hard decisions that leave you with a narrative that still doesn’t explain how you came to be who you are now.

What all of this has pointed out to me is that is takes a lot longer to put our care-giving experiences behind us.

dementia Alzheimer'sPerhaps we never fully recover.

But as we did when we first became caregivers, we persevere.  Not as damaged people but ones who have a story. And the purpose of the story may be just to possess it. Sharing it is not required but recognizing it is.

And if you can handle the television violence and gore, watch this season’s Criminal Minds. I think you’ll recognize the character and wonder if you looked that way once upon a time.

Courage is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears.
    -Arthur Koestler