Elizabeth Arledge’s PBS-aired documentary offers a snapshot on the impact that Alzheimer’s disease has on the national economy and individual families. According to the medical professionals interviewed here, the near-future costs of Alzheimer’s care threaten to bankrupt both Medicare and Medicaid while rivaling the Department of Defense’s budget for the sheer level of spending. This is because there has been no breakthrough in Alzheimer’s treatments – unlike heart disease, cancer or HIV/AIDS, nobody can survive this disease once it begins to take its lethal toll – but federal spending on research for the disease is much smaller compared to other medical categories.
But the real power of this documentary comes in witnessing the devastating effects that Alzheimer’s brings to families. One Missouri woman profiled in the film needed to sell her business and become a full-time caregiver to her mother – and the elder woman’s rapidly failing health is detailed throughout the course of the film. Another profile finds a Florida man who places his Alzheimer’s-stricken mother in a care facility. Although she is treated very well, the mother is not happy in her new surroundings, and her son is panicked that the costs of her care will deplete the family’s savings.
This film is provocative and often heartbreaking, and it should send a much-needed message that more urgency is needed in addressing this issue.