On Tuesday, May 26, Asheville nonprofit MemoryCare hosted a special screening of the award-winning film The Genius of Marian at the Asheville Community Theatre. Following the screening, Dr. Margaret Noel, MemoryCare director emerita, and Dr. Virginia Templeton, MemoryCare executive director, led an interactive discussion on the joys and challenges of caring for loved ones who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments.
“It’s a quiet movie,” Noel said. “A meditation really, on Alzheimer’s disease and its effects.”
The Genius of Marian has won several awards, including best documentary feature at Camden International, the Heartland Film Festival and the Washington West Film Festival. The documentary was filmed by Banker White and began as a personal project with his mother Pamela White, who developed early-onset Alzheimer’s at age 61. The film follows Pamela as her mind deteriorates, as well as the journey of her entire family, who must cope with the illness while acting as caregivers.
The Genius of Marian reflects on the ripple effect Alzheimer’s disease has on the social, emotional and physical wellbeing of caretakers, while simultaneously offering a heady rumination on the value of art and the meaning of family.
MemoryCare’s screening event kicked off with appetizers at 5:30 p.m., and as guests roamed with drinks and chocolate-covered strawberries, they were invited to peruse information on MemoryCare’s unique services, as well as statistics and resources on Alzheimer’s. At 6:30 p.m., Noel introduced the film.
Following the screening, Noel and Templeton hosted a question-and-answer session that focused primarily on the film’s central themes — how to maintain a memory-impaired patient’s pride while getting them adequate help, how to retain a sense of self through illness and the dual nature of caregivers as both family and staff. The directors described helpful tips for caregivers, such as how to speak to doctors about patients when the patients are in the room but incapable of speaking for themselves. Noel encouraged caregivers to “find an activity that makes patients calm and relaxed,” rather than forcing patients into activities that are stressful for them. The evening concluded with a discussion of early warning signs of Alzheimer’s, which include contradicting oneself, creating unnecessary conflict and experiencing intense agitation at being unable to remember songs, pictures, etc.
All proceeds from the event will go directly to MemoryCare’s work with families in and around the Asheville area.
Established in 2000, MemoryCare is a local nonprofit that focuses on a community-based method of care for memory-impaired patients and the individuals who care for them.
Donations to MemoryCare can be made here.