Caring About Dying: Still Alice Intro

Is it possible to share and care more widely about the process of dying? How do we relate to death and dying within our own communities? Is it something we should simply leave to the professionals?

These are some of the questions that were explored in a major international conference on how communities care for one another, supporting those undergoing the experiences of death, dying and loss. The 4th International Conference on Public Health and Palliative Care was held here in Bristol in May 2015 and professionals from across the world came together to share their practice and experience on these issues.

As part of a series of cultural events linked to the Conference, we screened a short season of films that exceptionally portray the realities and emotions brought on by death, and dying; from Fred Schepisi's Last Orders, which shows the impact of the life of an individual on his family and friends as they remember him whilst going to spread his ashes; Michael Haneke's movingly honest Amour, about an elderly couple dealing with the decline of one of them following a stroke, and the 2015 Oscar®-winning Still Alice, which brought the consequences and realities of early on-set Alzheimer's to a wider cinema going public.

In Still Alice, Julianne Moore (an Oscar®-winner for her astonishingly sad, brilliant performance) stars as a successful Columbia University linguistics professor who struggles to maintain her mind and self after being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's (she is only 50). It is a profoundly moving but never exploitative adaptation of Lisa Genova's 2007 novel of the same name.

The screening was introduced by Julian Abel, a Palliative Care Consultant who also organised the conference, as well as by Dr Sue Wensley, Consultant Geriatrician at Southmead Hospital.

Watch this recording to hear from these professionals, who discuss how Still Alice is pertinent to clinical practice, and how it can offer an insight into the disease and how we deal with loss.

Posted on Fri 15 May 2015.