With awards season is in full swing, it was great to see dementia being brought to the forefront of conversation as Julianne Moore was awarded an Oscar for her role in Still Alice. One person in particular who was touched by the film was Lesley Loizou who works at Anchor's West Hall, a care home that offers specialist dementia care. Lesley plays an active role with people living with dementia and her memory of Still Alice is unique and best told by her...
"Tuning in to the Oscars and watching Julianne Moore collect her award for Still Alice certainly brought back memories for me. Still Alice is a film depicting the struggle of a woman living with early onset dementia. Although a fictional story, as a Dementia Friends Champion and someone who has worked for many years in the care industry supporting people living with dementia, I was pleased to recognise this film as an accurate reflection.
"I had been looking forward to the release of Still Alice for some time, regularly discussing it with my colleagues at Anchor's award-winning West Hall care home in Surrey, where I work as the home's Customer Relationship Manager.
"My role at West Hall focuses on helping older people and their families discuss their needs and guiding them through the process of change when they decide to move into our home. In my spare time I also volunteer as a Dementia Friends Champion, encouraging others to make a positive difference to people living with dementia in their community. I'm passionate about improving the reputation of care, in particular dementia care in the UK and felt confident this film, once released, would help raise awareness and understanding of dementia among the public.
"It was through this work that I was invited, along with other Dementia Champions, to an exclusive screening of Still Alice at 10 Downing Street.
"It was an honour to be selected. No 10 was an unusual but also appropriate venue for the screening considering how Prime Minister David Cameron has championed the Dementia Friends Initiative. It certainly beat my local cinema!
"As I watched Still Alice I was pleased to see that the author Lisa Genova had clearly researched the subject thoroughly, using first-hand accounts given by people living with early on-set Alzheimer's over hundreds of interviews. The whole audience were also impressed with leading lady Julianne Moore who played the role of Dr. Alice Howland, a Harvard professor who is diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer's. She obviously prepared for the role thoroughly: there wasn't a dry eye in the house when in one scene her character, Alice, speaks at a caregivers' conference organised by the Alzheimer's Society. The tears were a testimony to Julianne's acting and ability to translate very powerfully her newly-found understanding of Alzheimer's and how it affects people.
"The whole experience was a great privilege, I'd never been to 10 Downing Street and the film is brilliant; I highly recommend it. Meeting other Dementia Champions and hearing their stories was really special too.
"Even though we were all strangers I felt as though I was in a room full of good friends, united by a common goal to help people living with dementia have a better quality of life. Sharing our experiences and seeing the commitment of other people to educate their local communities about this debilitating disease was really inspiring."
Lesley is the Customer Relationship Manager at Anchor's West Hall care home in West Byfleet.