Representation Dementia`s Symptoms: "The Notebook" By Nicholas Sparks
An example of media representation of dementia is ‘The Notebook’ which is a novel by the author Nicolas Sparks, which was adapted into a film in 2014. The film is the story of the unconditional love between a man and his wife, even though she has dementia and has no recollection of her husband and past. The main storyline is based around an elderly man called Noah who reads to his wife, Allie, to try and recreate and bring her memory back, even for a brief moment. Noah believes that reading from his journals to Allie every day may relive their unforgettable and youthful relationship in which they shared. Dementia is a group of symptoms that affect mental cognitive tasks such as memory and reasoning.
Dementia is a very tough disease that takes away memory and reasoning and as a result, impacts the patient’s independence. In ‘The Notebook’, Allie’s type of dementia is not stated however, it is likely that she has Alzheimer’s disease which is the most common form of dementia. In terms of ‘The Notebook’, Allie’s dementia causes her to forget her husband, children and grandchildren and her dementia worsens over time which results in Noah trying to stay positive and optimistic and continuing to read the journals to her. There is one moment in the film where Allie recognises Noah during dinner, but it quickly fades, and she becomes aggressive due to being confused and scared.
Lawton & Nahemow (1973) claim that as a person’s capabilities decrease and the environment will play a larger role in influencing both their mood and behaviours. The environment can greatly impact on people with poor physical health and poor cognitive function as it can lead to maladaptive behaviours which are related to stress. The environmental docility hypothesis can be applied to help those with dementia by doing something as simple as colour coding the entrance to their home as they may be unable to remember numbers and as a result, this would limit the confusion and stress accompanied with it.
The stages in which Dementia and Alzheimer’s aren’t fully portrayed in ‘The Notebook’ due to the nature and plot of the film, however, stage one can be described as absentmindedness and can be very difficult to determine if it’s possibly Alzheimer’s disease or just forgetfulness due to age-related memory problems. Stage two is often shown as confusion, decreased concentration levels and a deficit in short-term memory, this can often be difficult for families and loved ones of the person due to them not being aware that they have a memory problem. In stage two people may read something and completely forget what they said just minutes ago, another area in Alzheimer’s is that the person’s personality traits may become magnified, for example, someone who is suspicious by nature then may accuse people of stealing from them. Stage three is where memory loss will gradually become debilitating and fully affect a person’s typical functioning everyday life. People in this stage may have a visual recognition issue where they look at something and call it something completely different and unrelated, this can be category specific here the person know animate items but not inanimate items and vice versa.
Another factor is that some people with Alzheimer’s may lose their ability to name pictures and objects but are still able to read words. Something that is different for everyone I the cognitive deficits as it is due to the nature of the disease and the persons cognitive functioning. Finally, stage four and five is mostly where films, such as ‘the notebook’, use as reference and generalise as everyone with dementia. These stages are where the person is usually fully dependant on others for all of their needs. Often, they don’t recognise family members and their loved ones, which is quite distressing for them, and they might demand to see someone specific and when they do see them then they don’t believe that it’s actually them. The final stages of Alzheimer’s where people can become completely mute and fail to respond in any way to any actions or emotions and according to Fromholt & Bruhn (1998) the absolute final stage is death with typically comes 10 to 15 years after the first stages.
Films, such as ‘The Notebook’, which seems to focus on the person with dementia, actually focus more on the dominant point and perspective of the family or the spouse. This, therefore, leads the public to believe that this is how every person with dementia is and this is simply not the case. It is important that the views and point of the family of the person with dementia are put across with it is equally if not more important that dementia itself is correct and not stereotypical. The film highlights the issues related to dementia, for example, Allie is depicted to have issues with long-term and short-term memory, yet a lot of Alzheimer’s patient’s long-term memory typically remains until the later stages in the disease. In the final scene of ‘The Notebook’, Allie and Noah were talking and during this final conversation between them Allie says, “What will happen when I can’t remember anything anymore?” the issue with this is that most people with Alzheimer’s or dementia don’t actually realise that they have a memory problem. Another issue with ‘The Notebook’ when depicting dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is that Allie is unable to understand that the story that Noah is telling is about Allie, yet she somehow trusts Noah, this could possibly be the way the director/author of ‘The Notebook’ showed that Allie still has some of her long-term memory, but she still can’t tell that the story is her life.
A good thing about dementia representation in ‘The Notebook’ is that there is actually some representation in the media at all, this, in turn, could possibly inform the general population of dementia and Alzheimer’s. The film also illustrates the struggles and issues that the whole family goes through, the film clearly shows Noah’s view on their life and his struggles with his wife having such a debilitating disease.
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