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Why you should watch The Father

Having just watched the Oscar award-winning film, The Father, I feel like I can understand what my own father must be experiencing.

The film is described as being about a man refusing all assistance from his daughter as he ages, beginning to doubt his loved ones and even his own mind. It never mentions that Anthony – the father – is living with dementia, although he clearly is. It felt a little confusing to the viewer; what is real, who is his daughter, how much time has passed; so, imagine how confusing it must be to be inside the head of someone with dementia. For my sister and me, it made us more and more aware of how our own dad must feel a lot of the time. If it had this impact on us, we can only hope that the film will bring dementia to the forefront of the minds of the general public.

The term ‘dementia’ is just the name for the symptoms, but there are a variety of diseases that cause it, which can manifest so differently due to the numerous symptoms and different parts of the brain that can be affected. Memory loss is one of the most commonly known symptoms but there are so many more, which can overlap between the different forms of dementia. In the film we spotted many similarities between Anthony and our own father, who has a type of dementia called frontotemporal dementia, which tends to affect personality and behaviour.

In the film, Anthony was obsessed with his watch – we find that our dad is obsessed with the time, along with a multitude of other obsessions, such as alcohol, sweet foods and watching the same old tv programmes on repeat!

Anthony and our dad also share the trick of telling embellished stories, such as where Anthony tells the carer he used to be a professional dancer. Why would you not believe this? Dad also frequently thinks that strangers are people he knows and often goes up to them to tell them they look like a friend of his, as Anthony does with the carer and his daughter. The film really made us think – our poor father – how frustrating it must be for him, with a world that feels like it is constantly shifting in and out of focus, with familiar people there one minute, and not there the next.

Something that does differ between people with dementia is whether they have insight into their condition. Like our father, Anthony doesn’t realise he has dementia, and wonders why he has a carer, clearly thinking he is far more capable than he is. Our dad actively does not think he has dementia at all. He doesn’t even realise he has memory loss, despite frequently forgetting that I am married, he is a grandfather and my sister no longer lives at home. He often thinks the carers who come to give my mum respite care for a week are her long lost cousins or best friends.

One of the hardest things about the illness is the slow decline; watching it take away the person you knew one piece at a time over a number of years. Like Anthony, our father seems far too ‘able’ to need residential care yet that means that care falls to the family, slowly but surely grinding them all down. It’s a long-term, progressive condition and our own challenge is also memory related – can we still remember who our father was before he became ill? It’s becoming harder and harder.

This film, with such famous actors including Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman, brings dementia into people’s consciousness. It is such a devastating condition that we are beginning to understand more fully but needs more funding for research and public awareness.

We hope that this film can help our friends and family relate to what our father and our family are going through and how tough and upsetting it really can be. We also hope that people will watch The Father and understand how important dementia research is and by supporting charities like Alzheimer’s Research UK we can help scientists make vital breakthroughs for the future.

You can watch The Father in cinemas now.

About the author

Laura Sweet

Laura Sweet became an Alzheimer’s Research UK Media & Communications Volunteer with her sister Claire after their father was diagnosed frontotemporal dementia (FTD). They are keen to raise awareness of dementia and in particular the rarer forms of dementia such as FTD.

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