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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

My Life: Mr Alzheimer’s and Me

Introduction In this blog I want to present a very different short film about dementia, directed by filmmaker Chloe Fairweather. It is made from the point of view of three children, all of whom have a grandparent suffering from either vascular or Alzheimer’s type dementia. The film is called Mr Alzheimer’s and Me and it was made for children as part of the excellent My Life series of documentary shorts, shown on the CBBC channel in the UK, on 4 February 2015. The Executive Producer Natasha Dack was inspired by her son’s experience of his great-grandmother suffering from dementia in her 90s. She was keen to explore how these particular bonds between the generations are affected when the grandparent’s memory of their grandchildren becomes compromised.


The FilmMr Alzheimer's and Me

Watch the film’s trailer available on YouTube   

Mr Alzheimer’s and Me is currently available to stream or to download from BBC iPlayer, but only for the next week (although they will remain available to view for a further 27 days after download). The programme description is as follows:

 

My Life Series 6: 3. Mr Alzheimer's and Me
Josh, Ella and Hope all have one thing in common - they have a grandparent with dementia. It isn't easy having to be 'the grown-up' when their grandparents get forgetful. But all three of them are determined to help them as much as they can. They all have their different ways of coping, which they want to share with other kids going through the same thing, and have recorded personal moments with their grandparents on their own cameras. Josh is determined to help his [granddad] remember and secretly gathers mementos for a memory box. Ella decides to organize a sponsored walk to help raise money for research into the causes of dementia. Hope's granny gives dementia a character - Mr Alzheimer's - to help Hope come to terms with it all.

 

Relevance to the Field of Mental Health

This is a powerful short film, offering three individual family portraits of dementia as experienced by the grandchildren of each grandparent suffering from the illness. It also provides three useful clinical portraits from different stages of the disorder that could form the basis for learning about the presentation and progression of the illness. The scenes filmed by the children themselves provide an intimate portrait of their interactions and the bonds that they share with their grandparent. In some of Ella’s interactions with her granddad, his loss of understanding of the meaning in her questions is especially well captured. Some of the strategies the children use in the film, such as Josh’s construction of a memory box, are useful tools that can be employed in care settings as well as within the family home and could provide the inspiration for further discussion about the techniques that can be employed to improve the quality of life for people who are developing memory problems.

I hope that the BBC might consider making the film available for general use beyond the time that it is accessible on iPlayer, as I believe it is such a valuable resource.  Families in which an elder has just received the diagnosis of dementia might find it helpful to view with their children. It is also a wonderful learning resource for mental health professionals and educators, too, as there are increasing numbers of children who will encounter dementia within their families.

My Life: Mr Alzheimer’s and Me is available for the next week on BBC iPlayer (CBBC channel)

• Minds on Film is written by Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Joyce Almeida

 

 

 

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Comments

Re: My Life: Mr Alzheimer’s an
By chance I watched a recent repeat of this programme on CBBC with my 11 year old daughter. Working as an old age psychiatrist for more than 20 years, I was completely taken by surprise at the emotional impact that this beautifully judged programme had on me. I meet many spouses and adult children of patients with dementia in the course of my job, but had never considered the potential impact of the illness on young grandchildren before. The three children in the programme, much the same age as my own daughter, were old enough to have formed very special relationships with their grandparents, and to come up with practical strategies to help them, such as the sponsored walk and the memory box. In other ways though, they were still so young and vulnerable, struggling to understand why their grandparent was changing. Josh's pride and delight when his grandfather came to his last day of primary school was shattered, when looking at the photos a few days later, his grandfather couldn't remember being there. Hope's realisation that the medication was not going to cure her grandmother was heart-breaking. The sense of time being short and of the illness stealing away these brief relationships was powerful. This film has given me a new perspective on my field of work and has stayed with me since - I was delighted to find it listed here. I recommended it to my team at the time I watched it, and I completely agree that it is a wonderful teaching resource which we should beg the BBC to make generally available.
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About this blog

 

Minds on Film is a monthly blog that explores psychiatric conditions and mental health issues as portrayed in a selection of readily available films.

Please note that this blog may contain plot spoilers. Any views expressed are purely my own.

Dr Joyce Almeida
Dr Almeida is a consultant
psychiatrist working in the private sector in the UK.