Depicting challenges of dealing with dementia on screen

Experts discuss caregiving, while talking about House Owner, a film on caring for those with Alzheimer’s

December 19, 2020 01:28 am | Updated 01:28 am IST - CHENNAI

A majority of caregivers in our society are women and they take on the responsibility of tending to those affected by Alzheimer’s disease, said psychiatrist Sridhar Vaitheswaran.

In a panel discussion on the film House Owner, depicting the challenges of caregivers of those affected by Alzheimer’s, at the Frame of Mind 2020 film festival organised by the Schizophrenia Research Foundation, he said the film, directed by Lakshmy Ramakrishnan, accurately showed their daily experiences.

He recollected how several caregivers break down and feel devastated when their loved ones, with dementia, do not recognise them. “People often confuse normal ageing with dementia. This needs to change. If you find anything different from your previous lifestyle, then please seek medical attention. There is no harm in getting tested because a lot can be done to decrease deterioration,” he said.

The film’s director and actor, Ms. Ramakrishnan, spoke about how her sister’s experience with her brother-in-law, during the floods in the city in 2015, inspired her to make the film. “I wanted to show the way caregivers were tending to Alzheimer’s patients and their spirit of survival during such a crisis. For 30-33 hours, they managed with no help, and for them, it felt like reliving their whole life together, and that’s what the film is all about.”

Gomathy Radhakrishnan, who tended to her mother-in-law who had dementia, spoke about the challenges she faced. From weighing 60 kg, her mother-in-law gradually lost weight, and came down to 30 kg. “People would ask if we were feeding her at all; despite all the efforts we put in, we were ridden with guilt. There were several occasions when we felt hopeless and helpless. We had to care for her like a child,” she said.

Mitchell G. Weiss, chairperson of Frame of Mind, said the film also beautifully showcased the love story between the two individuals during a crisis.

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