Al Power is a distinguished geriatrician and an expert in the field of dementia. He went to see “The Savages” and files this report with ChangingAging…
For New Year’s Eve, I took sort of a “busman’s holiday” and went to see a movie about dementia and nursing homes. “The Savages” is the story of a brother and sister who are not very close, but must come together to care for their estranged father after he is diagnosed with dementia. I recommend it highly.
What they got right:
– the anguish that family members feel, complicated by unresolved issues from past relationships.
– the utilitarian way most of us are forced to choose long-term care. (Wendy: What’s the nursing home like? Is it nice?” John: “They take Medicaid, they’re near my house and they have an opening.”)
– they really capture the trappings of the institutional nursing home, from the decor and the nursing stations to the small shared rooms, flimsy curtains and the fluorescent light that glares in the elder’s eyes.
– my favorite image was the rather robotic and meaningless act of pulling the Thanksgiving turkey off the bulletin board and stapling up the Christmas Santa face.
– they also showed that the majority of people who work in these homes are good, caring people who try to know their elders and give them back some dignity in such surroundings. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney and Philip Bosco and the rest of the cast are superb at simply being so “real” in their roles.
My only beef – they mis-diagnosed the dad as having Parkinson’s disease, which rarely causes dementia early on. Bosco’s portrayal was fairly classic Lewy body dementia, and he did it beautifully.
My favorite line: Wendy calls John at 1 AM in hysterics after getting a voice mail about their father: Wendy: “He’s sick! He’s somewhere out West, we don’t know where! We have to go and find him!” John (half-asleep and perturbed): “Wendy, this isn’t a Sam Shepard play. We don’t have to go and find him.”