Dr. Alice Howland was a linguistics professor at Columbia, and during her daily run she begins to notice that she’s going blind to her surroundings and forgetting small things like words and names. She realizes that she’s forgetting these things and decides to go see a neurologist alone. She thinks that it’s a brain tumor, but there was nothing wrong with her MRI, but the doctor did tell her that she had a decline in level of mental function. She had a PET scan done to check for Alzheimer’s disease, and the doctor noticed that she had high amyloid in her brain for about seven years. She was prescribed Aricept and Namenda to help treat her disease. Alice has a rare familial Alzheimer’s that may have been passed down from her father, and is now passed down to her oldest daughter, Anna. Her son Tom is negative, and her other daughter Lydia doesn’t want to know if she has the disease or not. Alice now has to wear a bracelet that says “mentally impaired.” She makes a video in a folder called “butterfly” telling her future self that if her sickness ever gets so bad that she has a backup plan; a suicide attempt, she was to swallow all of her pills with water. “Butterfly” comes from the necklace that her mom gave her and her mom said “butterflies only live to be a month.” One day, Alice is going through her computer and notices the butterfly folder and watches the video and does exactly what it says to do. When she is finally going to take the pills, her caregiver, Elena, walks in the house and Alice drops all the pills on the floor. Her youngest daughter Lydia moves home from the LA area to take care of her.
Something I learned about Alzheimer’s is that it can come early on, I always thought that it came to people when they were about 70-80 years old. I also didn’t know that the disease is genetic, I thought it just struck whoever it wanted to. Another thing I learned about Alzheimer’s is that you can forget anything and everything, I always thought that you could remember things that happened before you were diagnosed.
The main difference between early onset Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer’s is that early onset Alzheimer’s occurs during a person’s 40-50 years of life, while Alzheimer’s comes later around 60-70 years into a person’s life. Early onset Alzheimer’s affects the APP, PSEN1, or PSEN2 genes, while late onset Alzheimer’s affects the APOE gene.
My feelings on Alice’s suicide attempt were very deep because of the fact that I had a cousin that was suicidal. It was very sad to me that Alice wanted to take her own life because she had a family who supported her so much throughout her journey, but at the same time it occured to me that she didn’t remember making that video and she didn’t know any better than to listen to what her past self was telling her to do. When Elena walked in and Alice dropped her pills it was a moment of relief for me, and probably for the rest of my classmates.
Something I took away from this movie is to value every single moment you have with your loved ones and your peers because who knows what they may be facing. Life is too short to treat others with disrespect and everyone deserves to be loved and cared for.
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