The alarming fact is that today more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, a progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills.
Local filmmaker Eric Gordon has captured the struggle caregivers face in a feature length documentary called "When All That's Left Is Love." Eric says, "I was my father's secondary caregiver for years before my filmmaking senses kicked in. I knew I had to pick up a camera and start filming. I just sensed something was happening that needed to be documented."
With a camera in one hand, Eric joins his mother in caregiving, even as he captures behind-the-scenes footage of the progression of his father's illness and his mother's increasing inability to cope. The family's story is a common but frequently unseen story about the broad, far reaching effects of Alzheimer's.
Melissa Morante, owner of ComForCare Home Care in Palm Beach Gardens knew she had to get involved as soon as she met Eric. "In the film, there are times where you'll see Marilyn (family caregiver for Shelly, living with Alzheimer's) do things that actually made the situation worse. Even just a little caregiver training may have changed her situation completely," says Morante. "As experts in Alzheimer's care, we want to get the word out to as many people as possible that there are resources out there for family caregivers."
Alzheimer's affects every system in the body, including bodily functions, behavior, and thinking.
What's more, because the disease is progressive, it is always changing, as are the behaviors and needs of those suffering from the disease. Ultimately, Alzheimer's is fatal. There is no known cause and no cure, according to Alzheimer's Community Care.
The stresses on caregivers are numerous and never-ending, with many patients outliving their primary caregivers due to the physical toll that caregiving takes on those who brave it. With the rising costs of healthcare, the insecurity of American policy decisions around health and the sheer scope of the issue, this is a problem that needs immediate and innovative attention.
When All That's Left is Love, and the social action campaign that accompanies the film's release, seeks to offer new solutions to families and increase the uptake of successful ones that already exist. Further, a national community screening and conversation series will follow the film's formal distribution. Screenings of the film paired with conversations with local experts and service providers will not only encourage enrollment of local programming for Alzheimer's sufferers, but will encourage enrollment in services for the caregivers themselves.
The film clearly shows its audience that not only do Alzheimer's patients need help and services, their caregivers do too. It's absolutely essential to dissolve any stigma that exists around the help available to caregivers and increase participation in these vital services.
"We are thrilled to be a part of it," says Scott Greenberg, author of "Oh My God, I'm Getting Older and So Is My Mom" and CEO of ComForCare Palm Beach. "The film showcases what we talk about every day, which is the fact that it takes a village. Not being afraid to ask for help and finding the right villagers. A caregiver is no good to their loved one if they've bent so far under the pressure that they break." Scott will be speaking at a few of the screenings taking place throughout the rest of the year, including October 30th at the Movies of Delray at 9am.
To find a screening near you visit the film's website at whenallthatsleftislove.com.
ComForCare Home Care Palm Beach is an integral care partner for families in South Florida. Their personalized care plans and compassionate caregivers help seniors live independently in their own homes and continue to do all the things they love.
To learn more, visit palmbeach.comforcare.com or call 561-630-1620.