Still Alice gets people thinking about Alzheimer


It starts off slowly. At first you may forget the name of the teacher you had in Grade 2, or the name of your favourite bar in college. As the disease progresses, important things like the names of your family and your friends begin to fade away. By the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease you become an empty shell of the person you used to be.

In the new movie Still Alice, Julianne Moore plays a Harvard University professor who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia that slowly kills your brain cells causing memory loss, forgetfulness or changes in personality.

Still Alice is based on the New York Times bestselling book of the same name written by Lisa Genova

“It is showing a different side. People think that dementia and specifically Alzheimer’s is an old person’s disease, but we are seeing people in their early 50s (get the disease),” said Danielle Arbour, public education coordinator at Alzheimer Society of Halton. “I think it’s going to open people to, yes the disease, but more importantly the early onset that it can have.”

Some professionals say it may be tough for people to reveal their memory loss.

“It’s a really sensitive subject and nobody wants to admit that they’re having memory issues. Suggesting that they go to a doctor to rule out other problems is another way of going about it (getting them tested for Alzheimer’s),” said Nicole Colburn, of the Home Instead Senior Care Centre, which provides in-home medical care for people with Alzheimer’s.

“And showing your own concerns for them is another way. It kind of takes the focus off of their problem and it puts it onto you, worrying about their well-being.”


As the disease progresses, the patient’s personality could change as they become antisocial and perhaps not dress properly or take care of themselves.

In the final stages of the disease, the patient will only say a few words or phrases. They also will not eat, move or even hold up their own head.

“There is no cure to the disease at all, unfortunately. There are few medications that can slow down symptoms and unfortunately nothing is curable,” said Arbour.

Medications such as Reminyl and Aricept can slow down the brain cells from dying, but the key for the best quality of life is early detection. Studies have shown that physical fitness, testing your brain and being social can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s.

“The effect that it has on the person who is suffering with the disease is they’re stolen away from their body,” said Colburn. “They are stolen away from their family.”

Groups such as Alzheimer Society of Halton help families understand and cope with Alzheimer’s disease. The centre has staff to help educate families and it also has a library filled with books and films about Alzheimer’s.

“I think people need to be a little bit more accommodating to someone who has Alzheimer’s or other dementia, because they can no longer make decisions on how they act,” said Colburn