Tuesday, April 10, 2012

PBS airs docudrama about an Alzheimer's patient, "You're Looking at Me Like I Live Here, and I Don't"

Tonight, Howard University Television aired the PBS Independent Lens film “You’re Looking at Me Like I Live Here, and I Don’t”, by Scott Kirschenbaum (about 57 minutes).

The filmmaker, always off camera, traces the life of a woman, Lee Gorewitz, about 80, with dementia and moderate Alzheimer’s in an assisted living facility, apparently in locked Alzheimer’s unit, in Danville, CA. The woman is fairly vigorous physically, and can speak words, but there is little actual meaning or detail in what she says (hence, the title of the film).  Sometimes she tends to bully the other residents, some of whom are very quiet and immobile, a bit.

The film shows entertainers working with the seniors, and here their interaction with the residents is individualized and personal.  It’s common for assisted living centers to hire musicians and performers to come and entertain, but not everyone performer would respond to the challenge in this matter.

The residents also play a kind of kickball and even bat whiffleballs around while seated in easy chairs.

Scott asks the woman about her children and family, and other than the fact that her husband is gone, she has little understanding of her kids.

Life in an institution is stripped down. You have very little of your former life (at least in this film), and you live in a small world – much of it in a muted common living space -- shared with other people.

At the end, we see how a locked Alzheimer’s unit works when Lee is ready to wander.

The film is from PBS Independent Lens and Peripheral Productions.  

Scott discusses his film in the Huffington Post here

See my TV blog, May 10, 2009 for a review of Maria Shriver's segmented documentary "The Alzheimer's Project" for HBO. 

Picture: NIH, Bethesda, MD. 

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