Alzheimer’s is an awful disease, robbing those who have it of so much more than just their memories, whilst it also robs those around them of the person they loved.
But what if you could ‘outsource’ the care of the loved one? What if you could send them to the other side of the world? It would mean you wouldn’t see them, much, but if it was the best care, what would you do?
That’s the question poised by young filmmaker Kristof Bilsen (“Elephant’s Dream”, “Parallel Lives”) who filmed Elisabeth in the final stages of Alzheimer’s as we join the documentary, in the care of Baan Kamlangchay in Chang-May, Thailand.
In fact, in the care of one carer in particular, Pomm. Pomm works on shift B, taking care of patients. She washes them, dresses them, takes them out, entertains them etc.
Pomm has a story all of her own though. She’s a mother of three, living lose to Baan Kamlangchay which is some four hours drive away from two of her children, who live with her mother, and six hours away from her daughter, who lives with the father.
Pomm is a chatty, thoughtful worker who asks questions during the documentary like, who will look after her when she gets old, or if she gets ill? She wonders at the wealth of these Western families who can afford to send their loved ones around the world for round the clock care.
In terms of patients we follow Elisabeth, who can no longer put a word together, let alone a sentence. When you consider Bilsen spent three years putting this together, that’s three years of his life, filming this woman deteriorating before his eyes and unable to help. It’s a heart-breaking prospect and a heart-breaking watch.
Next we follow a family from Switzerland as they make the most difficult decision about their 57-year old mother Maya. The daughter explains how the father brought up the idea to begin with, the three-daughters initially reluctant, until the father asked, “should we be so selfish, keeping her here just because we want to see her”.
Once agreed, it’s not long before Maya, who doesn’t seem to instigate conversation any longer, just saying yes and no, is whisked off to Thailand, with the family, who spend Christmas with her before leaving her to it.
We see as her husband calls the centre via Skype a few weeks later, they bring Maya in and what follows is heart-breaking.
Mother is an interesting documentary, providing a unique insight into the treatment of Alzheimers. However, where it really excels is when it focuses on Pomm.
Pomm is a fascinating character. I’d have loved to know more about her, why she is doing the job she is, so far from home, so far from her children.
Some of the most heart-breaking scenes involve Pomm going back to see her children, two of whom are older, the ones living with her mother, who almost don’t seem to know her, almost blanking her.
Whilst when she goes to see her youngest daughter, who lives with the father some six-hours away, the daughter cries and cries and cries, not wanting to see her mother leave.