By Mike Szymanski
Ugh! I can’t think of anything more painful than watching nine hours of a documentary about Alzheimer’s disease, but believe it or not, the new DVD called “The Alzheimer’s Project” an amazing, informative, and entertaining must-see documentary. The tag line says “it will change the way America things about Alzheimer’s” and that is true, just by what I said in the first sentence.
I must disclose that I have a personal interest in this, since in the past year my mom, who turned 80, has just had the beginning signs of Alzheimer’s. We watched the Julie Christie depiction of the illness in “Away from Her” and we’ll have to watch this together, too.
The three-disc series focuses on what is considered the second most-feared illness in America (with the first being cancer), and the sixth leading cause of death. The progressive and irreversible illness destroys your cognitive thinking and memory and affects more than five million people.
The best part and most poignant part of this production that originally aired on HBO is Maria Shriver’s section, “Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am?” Shriver is an executive producer of the series and she shows what it was like to be a child who had a grandfather who suffered from the disease.
The series is divided into four parts: “The Memory Loss Tapes,” which explains the illness and the magnitude of it as the Baby Boomer generation gets older; “The Caregivers,” focusing on the people who are around the person with the illness; “Momentum in Science,” which talks to the people who are trying to understand and eradicate the illness; and the Shriver project mentioned above. The series deals with all the misunderstandings of the illness and what scientists are doing to try to search for the cure. The scientists are all world-class experts, who discuss the illness throughout the series.
Some of the most amazing sections of the series are a chapter that explores an experimental vaccine that is in the works to stop it; how to distinguish the different kinds of dementia and the normal aging process; benefits of diet change to help control Alzheimer’s; and what people can do to keep mental acuity sharp and help prevent more deterioration.
The cover of the box has “Hopeless” scrawled across the top, and the “Less” part is blocked out. Let’s hope they are right, and that there is hope for eradicating this memory-robbing disease.
Studio: HBO Home Entertainment
Release Date: 7/28/09
Official Site: http://www.hbo.com/alzheimers
Photos courtesy HBO.
[Mike Szymanski is a Hollywood-based freelance writer and author who has written for Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and many websites.]