UW-Milwaukee student highlights the journey of family caregivers with new documentary
Caring for a loved one experiencing memory loss is one of the hardest things a person can do. Beyond the work involved with caring for someone who has lost the ability to live independently, the process of watching a husband, wife, or parent mentally deteriorate can be emotionally overwhelming.
The stories of caregivers are often hidden from view, much like dementia itself. A recent documentary is shedding light on the lives of these caregivers. The film, Unconditional: A Journey of Selfless Love, is co-produced and co-directed by UW-Milwaukee student Riley Killian along with Aidan Wallace, a student at UW-Platteville.
The team was motivated to create the film after noticing that many caretakers didn't know where to find support. Many family caretakers are given a diagnosis with few accompanying direction.
A central focus of the film is the Memory Cafe, where caretakers and those they care for can spend an afternoon with other people going through the same situation.
"The idea of a memory cafe is to walk into there and not know which person has dementia or Alzheimer's. Spending that human connection with each other, that's what these Memory Cafes try to bring to these family caregivers and their loved ones," Killian explains.
Music is another prominent tool highlighted in the film. It can be beneficial for caring for patients with Alzheimer's disease because the portion of the brain that is typically affected by the ailment is not the portion that processes and remembers the music.
"Walter and his wife, Elaine, they could communicate through music because she was a huge music fan all her life, and she was able to sing lyrics. She might not remember who he is the next day. But she can still remember the lyrics from a 1950s song," says Killian.
Killian hopes the film reveals some new perspectives for the audience. "I really hope people get an idea and a new appreciation for family caregivers for people that are going through this journey and not to shy away from being a part of the journey," He says.