Recently, I watched the movie Iris with a group of caregivers. The movie convincingly portrays the complex dance of emotions that can unbalance the best of relationships. Iris is the story of the famous English novelist, Iris Murdoch, an extraordinarily gifted writer and professor at Oxford. She is portrayed by Dame Judy Dench. las vegas cash advance
James Broadbent, playing Iris’s husband (John Bayley), expresses the difficulty many spouses have in dealing with the role changes that happen in being the caregiver for your life partner. He struggles with anger, frustration and guilt. As might be expected, denial appears first, as Iris’ husband, a professor of English Literature, insists her confusion is only her fine mind a ‘tad’ muddled by the pressures she suffers because of her gifts. Denial is an amazing emotion that surfaces in chameleon ways. When we become trapped there we can quickly lose perspective and patience.
When we came to the scene of John Bayley screaming at Iris in bed, it was met by stark silence. He had reached the peak of frustration at trying to be husband and wife, scheduler, shopper, house maker, cook, as well as caregiver. He simply could not be all these things, and it poured out in uncharacteristic rage. A major dilemma of caregiving is the increasing rush of responsibilities that stack up like dirty laundry waiting to be done, littering your landscape. You see the resulting lost look in his face as he attempts to deliver a eulogy for his sister, but is reduced to
The movie cleverly uses flashbacks to invite
us to consider how important our memories are. Kate Winslet portrays Iris’ younger self. It is ironic – isn’t it – that just as dementia is robbing us of the stories we hold dear, that robbery is part and parcel of the emotional falling apart of those near and dear to us.
Learning to cope with the depth and breadth of our emotions is a place to begin. Acquiring tips and techniques on self-calming are also important. Having friends and not isolating (as is portrayed in the movie) is vital. There are ways to speak to the perils of caregiving. That is what we teach in Savvy Caregiver Training. I admit, it is not easy, but at the same time I insist it is not impossible.
I think movies, like all good storytelling have the capacity to open us up to reflect on our situation. On May 27 we will be watching another movie – Away With Her – that also features dementia in the storyline. Consider joining us for the movie and a brief discussion afterward. It is a free gathering for caregivers. We meet at Elder Options, 100 SW 75 St. in Gainesville from 6-8 pm. Although there is no cost for the evening, I need a reservation to know how much popcorn to make! Call me at (352) 378- 6649, extension 126 or via computer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom Rinkoski is the Caregiver Coach for Elder Options in North Central Florida assisting people who are offering care to friends and families with dementia.