If you have not yet seen the French film, Amour, you should. This is a suggestion that I've made to several friends, especially those who do not work in the field of aging, yet live life in an aging body like the rest of us. The usual response as to why they haven't seen the movie goes along these lines, "It looks depressing," "Why would I want to watch what I'm in for all too soon anyway?" "Who wants to watch people aging/dying? It's depressing."
Depression seeming to be a top concern, at least in my circle of friends, I'd like to address this apprehensive and misguided view, along with the reasons why one should drop fearful preconceived notions and give this film the heartfelt watch both it and its viewers deserve. According to a 2011 Gallup Poll, more than one in six Americans, most of whom already have demanding jobs, will be a caregiver for a family member, significant other or friend at some point in their lives. Previous Gallup polls also show that caregivers have worse emotional and physical health than non-caregivers.
One of the biggest reasons that caregiving is such a stressor—aside from the obvious grief that someone close has begun to falter'is that it so often comes as a surprise, as was the case in Amour. When our lives and those of our loved ones are still going along fine, with a little forgetfulness here and an insignificant slip or fall there, it's much easier to turn a blind eye to future days barrelling down each of our lives' pathways. Having conversations with aging parents, and even ourselves, regarding long term care plans are awkward, period. Especially so "before the fact." But an early conversation paves the way to an easier transition, and that's a big deal for mental health. Even with plans in place, transitions of this nature will inevitably come with snags and jolting problems. The easier the transition, the lesser the depression and feelings of being overwhelmed or even hopeless.
Having a care plan in place is crucial for the holistic wellbeing of you, your parents, your children and/or your partner. Reminded of a quote I saw in the social media universe recently, "Most of the problems in life come because of two reasons: First, we act without thinking. Second, we keep thinking without acting," I implore you to recognize its relevance to end of life planning and to take action steps toward thoughtful proactiveness.
Amour's protagonist, Georges, couldn't have been less prepared. Though he and his wife Anne were in their early 80's, they still had their health, cultural drive, talents and the respect and admiration of those with whom they were close. Shock and a desire to deny were aptly displayed on Georges' face. (The brilliant acting is another great reason to watch!) Their daughter seemed even less prepared, caught in the bubble of her own full and complicated life, she could not wrap her mind around the saddening developments, just like the majority of us in boomer, gen x, gen y and millennial generations will find or have found ourselves. Her parents were doing just fine, until they weren't, and she had no tools to deal with one of life's most significant game changers: the onset of detrimental aging issues in someone we hold dear.
Amour does not glaze over any part of Anne, the beautiful golden ager of the film's focus, and her journey, nor that of Georges'. To me, this is not depressing, but refreshing. True, Amour is difficult to watch at times and I found myself looking away during a smattering of uncomfortable scenes, but found these reactions to be affirmations of directorial skill and actors' art, not disturbances that called to question, "Why did I come to see this again?" The film is heavy, I did get a glass of wine after and also found myself in reflection for the rest of the evening, but aside from films we go to for sheer pleasant escape, isn't contemplative reflection a positive byproduct of the best art has to offer?
Without trying to convince you to watch Amour any longer, following is some advice on how to break the chains of the far more depressing Gallup polls in order to not let chance caregiving impact your health in a negative way: physically, mentally, spiritually, holistically.
To read more about the movie itself, Parentgiving.com reviewed Amour for CaregivingCafe.com, which can be found here.