Alzheimer's: Dr Chris discusses the early signs of condition

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The 2017 film adaptation of the science-fiction film centres around an 85-year-old experiencing the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, to which her daughter Tess (Davis) and her son-in-law Jon (Tim Robbins) try to bring her comfort from. To do this they hire a service called Prime, designed to assist Alzheimer’s patients by creating holographic projections of deceased family members. Having experienced her own mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s, Davis was able to channel her own emotions into playing her character.

Speaking about her personal connection to the disease, Davis shared: “I found it very moving.

“I had a lot of things to work with and interesting things to tackle, and my mum had Alzheimer’s, so the aspect of losing your loved one in dribs and drabs really resonated with me.”

The star then commented on the interesting topic of memory, and how the film delved into how memories are used. She continued to say: “I just found it fascinating.

“The topic of memory – how we remember things and losing memories, and all that – I thought that was fascinating. And very emotional.

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“It’s a very valuable topic to explore. I don’t generally have a problem with taking [a project] home with me, but it certainly caused me to think about my own life maybe more than any other movies I’ve done.”

Not going into any more detail about her own mother’s experience with the progressive condition, Davis said that the ideology that whenever someone remembers something, they’re actually remembering the last time they considered that memory, not the memory itself, was “life changing” for her.

She added: “I had never heard that philosophy before reading it in the script and I was really shocked.

“It’s changed my life. I don’t really like it! I’m very disappointed with that idea and I’m trying to convince myself that’s not true. But it’s hard when things slip from your memory or from others’ memories.”

However, instead of living in fear of the condition, which tends to affect older people, Davis seems to be thriving in her older age.

Back in 2020, the star shared that she feels she has grown wiser and more in touch with herself the older she has gotten.

Now aged 66, at the time she said: “I honestly feel that every year has gotten better. I like how I look better every year. I feel better.

“It’s been my motto that if a person can do it, I can do it,” she added.

“It’s kind of ambitious, but I really believe there are no limits on what we can do and learn no matter what age we are.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in the UK, as reported by the NHS. Although the exact cause of Alzheimer’s is not fully understood, it is thought that a number of different factors increase an individual’s risk of developing the condition which is associated with ongoing decline in brain functioning.

These factors include:

  • Increasing age
  • A family history of the condition
  • Untreated depression, although depression can also be one of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Lifestyle factors and conditions associated with cardiovascular disease.

Due to the progressive nature of the condition, it is important to get a diagnosis as soon as possible, before symptoms become more severe. In order to do this, individuals need to be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

The NHS notes that the first important sign is usually minor memory problems. This could be forgetting about recent conversations or events, and forgetting the names of places and objects.

As the condition develops, memory problems become more severe and further symptoms can develop, such as:

  • Confusion, disorientation and getting lost in familiar places
  • Difficulty planning or making decisions
  • Problems with speech and language
  • Problems moving around without assistance or performing self-care tasks
  • Personality changes, such as becoming aggressive, demanding and suspicious of others
  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there) and delusions (believing things that are untrue)
  • Low mood or anxiety.

After receiving a diagnosis, individuals can use medication to help relieve some of the symptoms they may be experiencing. In addition, psychological treatments such as cognitive stimulation therapy may also be offered to help support memory, problem solving skills and language ability.

Thelma and Louise is on BBC Four, at 9:00pm on Thursday, July 14.

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