Imagine that one day – any random day of the week- everything is fine. You seem to have some difficulty in remembering simple things. Where are the car keys? What were you supposed to do that day? The next day, you and your family receive the terrifying news. You have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Slowly, over the course of the next few years, you will begin to forget everything about yourself. It is a terrifying thought, yet it is happening to nearly five million and four thousand people in America today (White, “The Genius of Caring: an interactive documentary”).
Now, think about what it would be like to be the caregiver of those people. They are husbands and wives, sons and daughters, or close friends and family (“Selected Caregiver Statistics”). What is it like to see your loved one slowly become nothing? Would it be terrifying or shameful? Would you be open about the fact someone close to you will eventually forget everything, or would you keep quiet? Many are ashamed of the fact they, or a family member, have Alzheimer’s and do not talk about it (White, “The Genius of Marian: Post-Production”).
However, two projects exist that are designed to share about the experience of having Alzheimer’s and caring for someone with the disease. “The Genius of Marian: Post-Production” is a documentary, created by Banker White, which shares the story of his mother, Pam White, who has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, and her mother, Marian, who died of the disease in 2001 (White, “The Genius of Marian: Post-Production”). The second is “The Genius of Caring: an interactive documentary”, which was also created by Banker White (White, “The Genius of Caring: an interactive documentary”).
Unlike “The Genius of Marian”, “The Genius of Caring” is a web-based community where those who are in some way affected by Alzheimer’s can share their experiences through submitting photos and stories (White, “The Genius of Caring: an interactive documentary”). In considering the two, the “Genius of Caring: an interactive documentary” is the best project to support due to its informative nature and ability to provide support for the caretakers of Alzheimer’s patients. Recently, I learned that two grandparents of my friend are suffering from this form of disease.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia accounting “for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases” (“What is Alzheimer’s? ”). The disease, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, can run its course in as little as four years to as long as twenty years (“What is Alzheimer’s? ”). Sadly, people suffering from the disease will go from forgetting newly learned information, such as the name of a person he or she has just met, to more severe memory loss, the inability to understand events occurring around him or her, and even being unable to perform the basic function of walking or swallowing (“What is Alzheimer’s? ).
I have even seen this with my friends Grandmother, who needed someone to feed her in order to eat. It is not surprising as to why Alzheimer’s disease can cause the caretaker to feel isolated when caring for the person diagnosed with it. People do not often know how to handle and approach someone with Alzheimer’s and will, unfortunately, abandon the person and their family (Straith). However, there are ways to stop this from happening. The goal of each of these projects is to make more people aware of Alzheimer’s and its effects (White, “The Genius of Caring: an interactive documentary”; Weintraub).
The Genius of Marian” attempts to achieve this through documenting conversations between Pam White, Banker White’s mother, over four years as her Alzheimer’s progresses and her family attempts to cope (White, “The Genius of Marian: Post-Production”). This documentary is a good way to help share exactly what it is like to care for someone with Alzheimer’s. By sharing his and his family’s own personal experiences, he effectively gives viewers a first-hand look at the struggles of caring for a person with Alzheimer’s.
However, this is only one person’s experience, and although it may be similar to the experience of thousands of other people, it does not show the experiences of other whose situation may be slightly different. On the other hand, “The Genius of Caring” offers the experiences of many people. In creating “The Genius of Caring” White recognises that the experiences people have with Alzheimer’s vary greatly and are not all the same. therefore, he created a place where people can share their own stories and give readers a better understanding of how Alzheimer’s affects people as a whole (Straith).
This also allows caretaker’s to show support for each other, helping to remove the isolating feeling that Alzheimer’s often causes. By allowing others to add and share their own story publicly, more people, who are not directly affected will become more informed as to what Alzheimer’s does. Another goal of these projects is to help caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients cope with losing a loved one before they are even dead and a community to gain support from. “The Genius of Marian” attempts this by publicly showing the world a very personal experience with Alzheimer’s.
Often, coping with Alzheimer’s is a very personal experience that is rarely shared with the world. Therefore, by sharing his own story, White is finding a way to cope with the gradual loss of his mother and creating a way for others to find comfort and support (Weintraub). Similarly, “The Genius of Caring” is much more effective in achieving this second goal. White, in creating a place where others can share their own stories, has made a safe place for people affected Alzheimer’s in some way to connect with each other.
On this web site there are many ways a person can share his or her experience; people can upload photos, post stories, and participate in conversations (White, “The Genius of Caring: an interactive documentary”). This project is equally geared at informing people on what it is like to be a caregiver and toward sharing personal stories with other caregivers. Caregivers who use this site and see the stories and photos of others in his or her same position will often take comfort in the fact that he or she is not the only one struggling to handle the effects of such a terrible disease.
Although each project does a wonderful job of achieving each of these goals – informing people of the disease and providing support for caregivers-, “The Genius of Caring” ultimately is the one which reaches these goals the best. This project, through its unique way of addressing Alzheimer’s, gives multiple first-hand looks into the lives of caregivers. The many stories that are used in this project all speak of the same disease, but gives very diverse and personal experiences, which can give the curious reader a broader, better understanding of the disease as a whole.
The project “The Genius of Marian” only achieves this on a much smaller scale. “The Genius of Marian” only gives the experiences of one family and one primary caregiver. This is most definitely an informative method, but by only giving one account, viewers are only given a limited look at the diverse effects Alzheimer’s has on caregivers. Viewers are not able to see how Alzheimer’s may affect a different caretaker who has to deal with different factors that those in “The Genius of Marian”.
Therefore, “The Genius of Caring”, through providing multiple experiences to draw information from, is best. The reason why “The Genius of Caring” is better at providing support for caregivers, is due to its ability to share multiple stories and allow any caregiver to find and connect with others in the same position he or she is in. Often times, especially when anyone is looking for support when dealing with a difficult or highly personal issue, the best support comes from those who are able to share his or her own similar experiences.
This ability to share and communicate, through the web site this project creates, achieves that form of support. “The Genius of Marian” does not create that same type of support. Although the documentary does share the story of a family affected by Alzheimer’s, it does not allow other caretakers to connect with each other and create a community of support. Therefore, “The Genius of Caring” is superior due to its multiple ways that caretakers can connect and share with each other.