I didn't know anything about Alzheimer's before my mother and
my stepfather developed it at roughly the same time in the spring of 2005. I
was living outside of Portland, Oregon; they were living in Mission, Texas.
They were 86 and 84, respectively. I had tried to talk them into moving to an
assisted-living community in Portland previously, but they always said they
were doing fine. So I was surprised when my mother called one morning out of
the blue and said, "We need help."
My husband and...
Did caring for your mother inspire you to do your new film, Away From
As insightful as the movie is about Alzheimer's, it's about the love that a
man is capable of -- what a husband is able to do in terms of making sure that
his wife has the best quality of life left.
In the film, Julie Christie's character fails to recognize her husband.
Did this happen with you and your mother?
Yes ... very painful. I had the same experience that he had. Then there's the
moment when the light comes through for a brief period of time ... after several
years of not knowing me, my mother knew me when I walked in.
How long did the recognition last?
About an hour or so. I think it was her goodbye, because two weeks after
that she passed.
Is the movie an accurate portrayal of Alzheimer's?
Unlike this character, when my mother realized she was losing it, she did
not want to be taken anywhere ... I promised her I wouldn't [put her in a
hospital] ... but we reached a point where we weren't able to take care of her
physically. I had tried with nurses around the clock, but she screamed and
yelled at them and accused them of stealing from her. She was a terror. That's
what happens with Alzheimer's.
If you were recovering in a hospital and you could have anyone, from any
era, recovering next to you, who would it be?
A poet. I once was in the hospital with an English teacher and she recited
poetry. That's what I'm remembering --how wonderful she was.
Do you have a personal health philosophy?
I do everything I can to stay strong and flexible.
What quality do you most desire in a doctor?
Skill, experience, and knowledge -- I want them to know what they're doing.
They don't even have to be nice guys, and they don't have to have a bedside
manner. They just have to know what they're talking about. They have to pay
You decided to be a physical therapist after college. Why?
I wanted to go back to school, and it was the best way I knew to make money
given the kind of studying I liked. I liked the sciences. So I went out and did
four polio epidemics. I was in Marmet, W.Va. I was down in Dallas, Texas. I was
up in Duluth, Minn. And then the worst one was in Boston in 1955.