Experiencing Dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease From the Inside

I recently watched The Iron Lady, the 2011 movie in which Meryl Streep portrayed Margaret Thatcher, the late Prime Minister of Great Britain. I think everyone ought to see this movie, not so much for the historical content, but to experience from the inside what our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease experience.

According to Mrs. Thatcher’s daughter, Carol, her battle with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease became noticeable in 2000 and The Iron Lady focuses on the years after the death of her husband, Dennis, in 2003.

I cannot adequately express how much insight and understanding experiencing this – and I literally felt like I was experiencing it – gave me into what Mom went through.

I also cannot begin to convey the deeper empathy, Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister, Great Britain, The Iron Ladysympathy, and protectiveness that I experienced as well. There were many moments when I wished I could take both Mrs. Thatcher and Mom into my arms and just hold them tight and not let go.

This movie touched my heart on its deepest levels and my tears and my helplessness welled up deep within me. And, yet, it looked like – and explained – a lot of what I saw, from the outside, with Mom.

I remember the first time Mom told me that Daddy, who’d been dead for ten years, had visited her the night before and that he’d left right before I got there. Mrs. Thatcher spent a lot of time with Dennis, as the dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease progressed, after his death as well.

There is a frenetic and frenzied scene in which, in an attempt to banish Dennis for good, Mrs. Thatcher packs everything of his up in a few short hours, including a suitcase for him. He takes the suitcase and leaves for good while she is begging him not to leave just yet. It’s a very poignant scene.

One of the brilliant aspects of this movie is that it captures the mental confusion and chaos of dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease. We experience it right along with Mrs. Thatcher. And it made sense to me because it explained a lot of what I had seen with Mom. Interestingly, it didn’t bother me nor did it seem weird to me. It looked a lot like what I already knew.

But the difference was that I was finally able to walk in Mom’s shoes and know how she experienced it. That made me love her even more – if that’s possible – and it made me wish I’d known then what I know now. But maybe I can take what I learned and, as always, pay it forward.

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