Home > Diagnosis, Media, Memory > Which One?

Which One?

Image courtesy dan @ http://www.freedigitalphotos.comI woke up early on this Saturday morning, and decided to turn on the television.  I was pleased to get in on the start of a good old movie, The Notebook.  I’ve seen it before, more than once, and I’ve also read the book which inspired it.  But I was in the mood for a good cry, and the professional side of me wanted to take another look as well.

For those who haven’t seen it, or heard of it, The Notebook is a sweet little movie which is one of those story-within-a-story tales.  It centers around an elderly man and woman who live in a retirement home.  He visits her every day, to read from a book which tells the love story of a young couple.  As the movie progresses, we find that he has read this story to her before, but she has no recollection of his doing so — or even of meeting him.

And we are also shown how the love between the younger couple develops, starting from the time they meet and progressing through all their various triumphs and trials.  Of course, she is from a wealthy family and he is poor.  Her family forbids them to be together, and so she goes off to another life.  She eventually meets another man and becomes engaged to him.  However, circumstances bring her together with her first love, and they rekindle their romance.  Now she has a choice to make.

As the movie progresses, we learn more about the older couple.  As we guessed, they are the same people who met and fell in love all those years ago.  They have raised a family, and are now nearing the ends of their lives.  However, she has an illness which has caused her to lose any memory of who she is.  She has no recollection of her beloved husband, or of their children and grandchildren when they come to visit.  And yet, her husband continues to read and re-read the story of their lives to her, hoping that one day she will remember.

There is a side of me that watches movies like this, and tries to diagnose the people in them.  Either I try to figure out just what disorder the character has, or if their condition is given a name I critique how well the actor portrays it.  I know, that’s just the way my mind works.

In The Notebook, there is a doctor who uses the term “senile dementia” to describe the woman.  However, that’s not a term that is used very often in this day and age.  Now we tend to hear diagnoses like Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy Body Disease, vascular dementia, and so on.  In this case, we see a woman whose memory for people and places has declined considerably.  We see an episode of agitation, which requires her to be sedated.  There is an excellent example of procedural memory, when she sits down to play the piano.  Her social skills appear to be adequate for carrying on a conversation.  But we don’t really see how she functions with regards to daily living skills, and there are other facets of her life that we are not privy to.

Just off the top of my head, given this incomplete information, I would guess that the woman has one of the dementias that involve damage to a specific region of the brain, rather than a more generalized dementia such as Alzheimer’s.  The fact that she does have flashes of return to her former self makes me think of something like Lewy Body Disease, but she doesn’t show the motor symptoms so often seen with that disease.  Of course, everyone’s dementia progresses at a different rate and (as I said before) we’re not shown every aspect of her daily life.

And now I’m rambling.  If anyone else has thoughts regarding this, please do chime in.  Regardless, for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, I would heartily recommend The Notebook for some good viewing, if you like a good love story.  But be sure to keep the tissues handy.

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Categories: Diagnosis, Media, Memory Tags: ,
  1. August 17, 2013 at 9:21 AM
  2. August 25, 2013 at 7:19 PM

    Hi Jami,
    Firstly, I like the new look of your blog, and the images you are adding. My DH commented positively when I started adding images occasionally!
    Re this movie, when I first saw this movie, we had gone down to the video shop to hire a movie (obviously ages ago as they hardly exist anymore!!), and without our reading glasses. We selected The Notebook, not realising it was more than a love story, and of course, when we realised she had dementia, we cried most of the way through thereafter! Not such a great movie following a diagnosis I’d have to say, but if it hadn’t been so personal, we would have loved it…
    Take care, Kate

    • August 25, 2013 at 7:29 PM

      Thanks so much, Kate. Someone suggested to me that I could attract more readers by appealing to them visually, as well as with content. I have been enjoying experimenting with the look of the site as well as what I’m trying to say here.

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