Sunday, June 23, 2013

"The Genius of Marian": a painter's family and two generations that deal with Alzheimer's disease

The film, “The Genius of Marian”, aired in the large auditorium at the AFI Silver at AFI Docs, provides a retrospect of the work of the painter Marian White, through the lens of her aging daughter Pam, and grandson Banker White (the director, along with Anna Fitch). 

The film also documents the story of two generations of a family dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.  Marian had died of it in 2001, although she had reached her eighties before stopping work.  Daughter Pam, now in her sixties, has been diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s as her sons (Blanken. and sometimes Luke, a medical resident in New York City) struggle to arrange care.  She lives in a big, beautiful old home in Dedham, MA, with stunning views of the coast, but also exposure to dangerous storms.

The film shows the early diagnostic interviews with the neurologist, where she is given a quiz and asked to name common objects.  She can’t name a bench or a canoe.  The family is told she should not be left alone.  The family gradually brings in hired caregivers, over her objections.  Apparently she is fortunate enough that insurance will pay for some of it.

The warmth within the family is apparent throughout the film.

My own mother developed dementia, with the first signs starting late in 2007, before her death at age 97 at the end of 2010.  The neurologist found some early signs of Alzheimer’s tangles in her cat scans, but I believe that most of her symptoms were related to vascular problems (congestive heart failure and a stroke in May 2009).  After the stroke, I was told by an inspector from one of the caregiving companies that she should never be left alone once she had been put on Aricept, or I could be legally charged with criminal neglect.  I don’t know if this is reliable information, but it was quite disturbing.  I brought in caregivers every time I went out by June 2009, and by late 2009 we had caregivers here most of the time, full time by September.

I even recall getting advice from a friend about putting out clothes for her.  I simply have not dealt with such personal intimacies in my whole adult life. 

In the book "I Am a Strange Loop" author Douglas Hofstadter discusses the idea that the soul and sense of identity gradually leave during severe dementia at end of life (June 1, 2013 in the Books blog).  

The official site is here.  The only distributor listed is Roco Films. 

The trailer is provided by WeIWNTV.  Is that the Oprah network?

A good film for comparison is “Pollock” (2000), written and directed by Ed Harris (Sony Pictures Classics). 

Compare also to Maria Shriver's "The Alzheimer's Project", on the TV blog, May 10, 2009.  

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