Friday, March 18

Is "Still Alice" an Accurate Portrayal of Alzheimer's?


In the movie "Still Alice," Julianne Moore's character is stricken with early on-set Alzheimer's. Ken Hepburn is the Education Core Director for Emory University's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. See his professional take on the authenticity of the movie and Moore's performance.

More video on 'Still Alice':

  • Emory University


  1. So this does not illustrate typical behavior if Alzheimer's comes at old age instead of at age 50? Or is it that this behavior isn't noticed as much when it begins in the elderly? How is the onset of Alzheimer's different from age 50 rather than 78? Isn't this disease "there" sometimes 20 years + prior to diagnosis?

    1. Actually, it isn't noticed as much in the younger group. Most pass it off as fatigue. If it becomes persistent, it scares them and they don't want to know what it is. If they are diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer's (or any of the other dementia's), they lose their job, insurance, their family and friends. I'm a younger-onset Alzheimer's caretaker and have seen it all happen.

      This form of Alzheimer's is much more aggressive than the geriatric version. The move from one stage to another is sometimes jarring. And, yes, the victims have had the disease for 20 or more years. If you're 44, like one of the victims I know, you've had it since you graduated college.

      How is it different in younger people? For one, there are usually no other serious health factors like hardening of the arteries, kidney failure, chronic heart disease, circulatory problems, gastrointestinal issues or COPD in people 50 or younger. That makes the cognitive failures and memory problems stand out so much. Another is the sudden loss of abilities that seemed second nature. In my wife's case, she forgot how to use Excel functions, functions she taught others (including me) to use. Then there's confusion with schedules, being unable to add a column of numbers (like in the game Yahtzee), handwriting becoming illegible, inability to complete a simple form, inability to spell words they've used all their life. lack of a sense of urgency when faced with deadlines, the inability to follow a recipe, hesitating at traffic lights (not turning right on red when there is no traffic), and much more. To that you can add those things that affect how they do their job. Forgetting how to sign into the network, leaving for the day without clocking out, losing items like keys, wallets or purses and not knowing where they might have been so they can look for them. And most of all, the adamant refusal to believe anything is wrong until the disease causes a crisis in their personal or professional life.

      By the time it's diagnosed, the disease progress rapidly accelerates. In just 3 years we've gone from forgetting how to merge an Excel worksheet with a Word document, to having to help her dress, bathe, monitor her medications to make sure they are taken, make sure she uses shampoo before conditioner, and helping her feed herself.

      She has had expressive aphasia for over two years which means she can "see" the word or phrase in her mind but the neural connections that gets it to her vocal chords to say it or her hand to write it are gone. And they will not come back.

      Her friends and family, even some of her own children, avoid her, so other than me, she is alone. We know that she will soon need full time nursing home care, but we don't have the resources to pay for it, which is a problem. There aren't any government (state or Federal), charity or foundation programs to help with the expense. Support for the caretakers and families of younger-onset Alzheimer's victims is almost non-existent. Covering the cost of prescriptions required months of appeals because young people don't get Alzheimer's.

      A Tsunami is coming. There are a lot more "Alice's" out there than anyone imagines and nobody, not the government, not the healthcare industry, not corporations, has a clue what needs to be done before it happens.

  2. early onset alzheimer's is alzheimer's but before the age of 65. Just remember that both have stages they go through. You don't automatically start off with stage 3


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