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Misguided concern for the elderly.

Misguided Concern for the Elderly

There is one segment in the motion picture Dad that delivers a profound message: senility can be inflicted upon the aged, even by well-meaning friends and relatives.

Jack Lemmon portrays Jake Tremont, an elderly retiree, who shows signs of becoming senile and incapable of caring for himself. His devoted wife, apprehensive and smothering, overwhelms Jake with attention. She butters his bread, pours beverage into his cup, cuts up his food on the plate, and persistently manages to anticipate all of his needs. The message that this loving wife sends to her husband is clear, he is helpless. Jake gradually sinks into infantile dependency.

A tragedy strikes the Trement household; perhaps a blessing in disguise. Bette, Jack's wife, suffers a heart attack and her husband is suddenly left alone, faced with bewildering routines always managed by Bette. Confusion and despair set in -- until Jake's son, John, rushes to his parents' home. John expects to spend only a few days helping his father adjust but realizes the helplessness to which the elderly parent has been reduced. He stays indefinitely.

What ensues is a lesson for all people who are confronted with the aged. They have many resources within themselves that may be salvaged; challenges are necessary in life and individuals can rise to meet them. John insists that his father take over where the mother left off, doing for himself. The results are gratifying. Jake becomes a self-reliant, enthusiastic member of society again.

When an individual is consigned to the "scrap heap," isolated from activity and human contact, the results are often predictable, both demoralization and apathy set in. Even in severe cases of dementia, some experts agree, it is important to maintain an environment of love, affection and whenever possible, familiar surroundings, mementos and evidence that life continues.

PHOTO : Actors Ted Danson, Jack Lemmon, Olympia Dukakis who portray a family beset by an elderly

PHOTO : father's struggle with borderline dementia.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:onset of senility examined in motion picture "Dad"
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Previous Article:Senility is not inevitable - history proves otherwise.
Next Article:The traps of misdiagnosis.

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