Compassionate Husbands in Alzheimer's Stories

Tired of reading and hearing about Alzheimer’s? That’s understandable, since the very mention conjures up feelings of despair. Yet, positive emotions surface when we look at the dedication of some family members.

Here we appreciate husbands specifically, because:

  • "Being a caregiver is not a traditional role for men" - Marc Chamberlain, MD.;
  • Although women make up 60 to 70 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers(US Alzheimer’s Fact Sheet 2014), some men provide excellent services for their wives.

Retiree Husband Gives Compassionate Care

Photo by Andrew Nixon/Capital Public Radio
Photo by Andrew Nixon/Capital Public Radio | Source

Several movies about Alzheimer’s are touching in their portrayal of dedicated love. The disgusting gunk of the disease still comes through, but watching the husband’s care for his sick wife provides a good feeling where otherwise there would be none. Four realistic Alzheimer’s movies (plus a bonus) help to illustrate the point about these compassionate husbands.

(1) The Notebook

The Notebook, released in August 2004, is based on Nicholas Spark’s 1996 novel by the same name. The major part of the movie is a flashback to the story of Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) and Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams) who shared a romance in the 1940s.

In old age, Noah and Ali (James Garner and Gena Rowlands) reside in the same nursing home. Every day, he reads to her from the story of their romance which she wrote at the onset of her memory loss, with instructions for him to "read this to me, and I'll come back to you." Now, she only remembers hearing the story before.

Noah Reading to Allie

News Limited
News Limited | Source

Noah continues to read, uncertain of the outcome. Eventually, Allie recognizes him reading their story. Excited, he arranges for dinner by candlelight in her room. They eat and then begin to dance. He calls her darling and she pushes him away, angry that he overstepped his bounds. He is shocked that her memory lapses so soon.

Noah is disappointed, falls ill and is taken to the hospital. When he returns she remembers him, and he is happy and forgiving. They discuss their fears about the future. During the night, Providence grants their desire, and they both die in her bed.

Above the story of a cruel disease, is the story of Noah's compassion, patience and hope empowered by love.

(2) Away from Her

Away from Her, released in May 2007, is based on Alice Munro’s 2001 short story, The Bear Came Over the Mountain. Grant and Fiona Anderson (Gordon Pinsent and Stacey LaBerge) have been married for 40 years, when she is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They both agree to have her admitted to a nursing home.

Grant is upset about the home’s no-visit policy for the first 30 days, but finally agrees that it is in Fiona’s best interest. By his first visit, not only has Fiona forgotten him, but she is attracted to Arthur, a fellow resident. Grant watches them laughing and feeding each other as they dine together. He is angry and heart-broken, but when he tries to remind Fiona who he is, she is not interested.

He wonders is she is faking forgetting him, but nothing would make him abandon her, even while she continues to show affection for someone else.

Arthur is also married and when his wife removes him from the home, Fiona misses him and gets depressed. What does her loving husband do? He arranges for Fiona to meet her new love. He will not deprive her of happiness.

Eventually, Fiona’s memory surfaces and Grant discovers that Fiona still loves him; but what does it say about his selflessness that kept him waiting indefinitely?

(3) The Genius of Marian

The Genius of Marian, released in March 2014, shows actual photographs which were intended to be part of Pam’s White project—writing her mother’s story, to “keep her alive by not forgetting who she was.” Her mother was portrait artist, Marian William Steele, who died from Alzheimer’s in 2001. One year into writing her mother’s story, Pam is diagnosed with the disease at age 61.

When her husband, Ed, becomes her caregiver, his associates think that he would do it temporarily and then resume regular hours at work. They are mistaken. He plans to cook and clean house, provide her personal care, put on her make-up, and do whatever needs to be done. “I like being with her,” he says.

His children want him to get out of the house and live his own life, but he is determined to be Pam's caregiver. He begins to unravel when he cannot figure out how to keep her mind active after she stopped reading the books from her Book Club. They fight about her taking her medication, and out on the ocean in their boat, he becomes so angry at her stubbornness, he curses.

The viewer sees the frustration of a husband trying his best to take care of his wife. Eventually, he admits feeling caged, since he takes her wherever he goes. In the midst of his tears, he chooses to focus on “the phenomenal life she has given me.” What loyalty!

(4) Still Alice

Husband's Initial Denial (1:41)

Still Alice, released in October 2014, is based on Lisa Genova's 2007 novel by the same name. Dr. Alice Howland (played by Julianne Moore), linguistic professor at Columbia University is diagnosed at age 50 with early onset familial Alzheimer’s.

This type of Alzheimer’s is hereditary. The children, all grown up, test for the disease and the results are: Anna, the first daughter, positive, but her prenatal twins test negative; Tom, the son, negative; Lydia, the second daughter, afraid to be tested.

Physician husband, John (Alec Baldwin) presents a cool, controlled posture for most of the movie –when Alice repeats questions, when he finds her phone in the freezer, when she wets herself while searching for the bathroom. He is angry when she stays out for two hours and misses a dinner function, but he soon remembers that she is not to blame. He is patient and forgiving.

When he leaves for a job assignment in Minnesota, his second daughter Lydia moves back home to take his place. John cries out his bottled up emotions on her shoulder. Just his humanity!


When Love Becomes an Instinct

Healthline includes this on the list of 2015 movies about Alzheimer’s. It is no more than a clip (2.43 minutes) from CBS Sunday Morning, but no increase of time could make it more powerful. The man, Melvyn Amrine, is the Alzheimer’s patient, but he also takes on Alzheimer's in his own way and makes it is obvious that he would have been the most compassionate husband if the roles were reversed.

He gets lost on the way to finding his wife’s Mothers’ Day present, but he will not go home without it. Watch and enjoy!

© 2015 Dora Isaac Weithers

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Comments 49 comments

Jodah profile image

Jodah 15 months ago from Queensland Australia

This was a wonderful and touching hub MsDora. Those movies all sound wonderful. My wife and I have discussed what to do if it ever happens to one of us. Unfortunately I cannot watch "When Love Becomes an Instinct" in my country. Well done.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks for your comment, Jodah. If you ever re-visit, Melvyn's Mother's Day gift was flowers like he had always given ever since she became a mother. He walked 2 miles and got lost, but the cops found him, helped him find his gift and bring it home.

word55 profile image

word55 15 months ago from Chicago

Hey Dora, What another profound hub of love. The video was sensational. You give us these amazing stories of making the best of life in despite of whatever may be the problem. You do this time after time. Thank you so much. God bless you!

Jodah profile image

Jodah 15 months ago from Queensland Australia

Thank you for sharing that MsDora....heartwarming.

DDE profile image

DDE 15 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Hello MsDora, The Notebook is a great movie watched it twice. You have an interesting list of movies here.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Word, God bless you, too. Thank you for your continual encouragement.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Jodah, you're welcome. Sorry you cannot see the video; that would be really touching, but I tried.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Devika, thanks for your comment. Glad you enjoyed The Notebook. Really good!

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 15 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Thank you for this wonderful hub. I am not a primary caregiver in such instance but know a few men who are. They are my heroes. I am not directly effected by the disease so being around those who have it is alright with me, I find them fascinating people. But I am not responsible for them.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Eric, thank God that you do not have that responsibility, and pray to Him for those you do. Best to you in whatever responsibilities you have! Thanks for your comment.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 15 months ago from Olympia, WA

It's just an ugly disease and yes, it has touched our family. Thank you for raising awareness about this through your writing. I think it's very important that we, as writers, do this.

denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 15 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

Alzheimer's is such a difficult disease. I have a friend that stayed with her husband after he was diagnosed and cared for him in their home until his death. Thankfully, he was always able to recognize her, even though he failed to recognize others. The dedication required was phenomenal.

Reynold Jay profile image

Reynold Jay 15 months ago from Saginaw, Michigan

Hi MSDORA. I pretty much care give for my failing wife now. The Note book sounds like a worthwhile film. Well done on an important HUB.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Bill, the degree of ugliness is excessive. However, I've been looking at movies dealing with the disease, and my optimism pulls me toward the virtuous beauty of the caregivers, and especially the compassion of the husbands. I guess I'll be writing about several aspects of it, since it is what fills my days now.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Denise, yes it requires exceptional dedication--and a whole lot of love. Thanks for your comment.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Reynold, the best of strength, patience, courage and everything it takes to perform in the caregiver role. Thanks for stopping by. Hope you watch and enjoy the movie.

The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 15 months ago from United States

Thanks for sharing these, MsDora. I've read one and seen one, but you've made me want to see them all-- but maybe not all at once. (:

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Jill, you'll love them all. Thanks for reading and commenting.

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 15 months ago from sunny Florida


This is a subject that rankles us to the can happen to any family...

I have seen the Notebook umpteen times...I will have to become familiar with the others.

Angels are on the way to you this evening ps

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Patricia, thanks for stopping by and for the angels. You will like the other movies.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Kristina, thank you very much for your feedback. Sorry I have to delete it since links are not allowed in my comments. Best to you!

emge profile image

emge 15 months ago from Abu Dhabi

alzeimers is a delitating conition and needs a lot of care as well as understanding. Great hub and shared

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Emge, thanks for reading and sharing the article. Almost everyone is affected by Alzheimer's.

Snowsprite profile image

Snowsprite 15 months ago from Cornwall, UK

I think Alzheimer's is a tragic disease where you lose the person well before time. I'd always thought it was about losing your memories but it is far more complex than that.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Fay, like you, all I heard about the disease before I encountered it was the memory loss. You're right about it being a tragedy; that's why these compassionate husbands add such an uplift to the mix of emotions. Thanks for your contribution.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 15 months ago from Shelton

this was indeed a truly wonderful hub MsDora, stand by your woman or man no matter what.. I know it must be a challenge and a tough task.. but like the men in the movies prove.. love and compassion goes beyond anything earthly.. lovely hub as per usual.. :)

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Frank. That's the message--loyalty no matter what. That's beautiful to watch.

lifegate profile image

lifegate 15 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

Hi Dora,

Even though it can be a very discouraging situation, you bring out the best. It's the love that keeps things together and you've shown it well through your words, pics, and videos. Thank you.

manatita44 profile image

manatita44 15 months ago from london

Well Dee,

What can I say? It is both a powerful and emotive subject, and we are still trying to understand it. I guess you are having much of the live practical experience. My best wishes.

I like the fact that Melvin remembered that he had to get flowers. Interesting, isn't it?

I have not seen those movies, I don't think. My mom had diabetes, glaucoma and probably heart problems. I guess God gives only so much.

Well presented Hub and yet another way of looking at and approaching this significant subject. Yes, men can be compassionate too. Much Love.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thank YOU, Bill for your encouragement. Your support means much to me.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Manatita, thanks for those men who show such love and compassion. I appreciate your kind contribution.

sujaya venkatesh profile image

sujaya venkatesh 15 months ago

a compassionate hub

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Sujaya. I appreciate your feedback.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 15 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is a very touching hub, Dora. I haven't seen any of the movies that you mention, but I plan to. Alzheimer's is such a sad disease. I hope a cure or effective treatment is found soon.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Alicia. Glad to introduce these movies; hope you like them as much as I do. Have a great week!

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 15 months ago from Long Island, NY

Alzheimer's is such a scary thing for one to fear, especially if they suspect that they have the onset of it. Your review of these movies is very touching. It's nice to see that some people love their spouse so much as to appreciate what they are going through.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Yes, Glenn. I just had to find something pleasant in the midst of this dreadful disease. The love of these men for their wives focuses on the heart when the body is giving up. Thanks for commenting.

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 15 months ago from England

Hi, I cried buckets of tears over the notebook, what great acting! I actually bumped into an old guy at the garage buying gas the other day, he said to me, 'scuse me, what is this? and held up a fifty pence piece, which is approx 50 cents, and then he said, 'I don't remember this changing from a 10 shilling note! that was nearly 40 years ago! I made sure he understood, made sure he had enough money on him, then lead him back to his car. I couldn't stop thinking about him, very touching hub, nell

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks Nell. The sufferers of mental illnesses in various forms are all around us. We all need to be as mindful and as caring as you were in that instance. Thanks for sharing.

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 15 months ago from USA

This was a wonderful hub. Caregivers need do much love and support. Reading books like these can make people feel they are not so alone in the journey. It's an isolating and terrible disease for families.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Flourish. Personally, I'm trying to read and watch as many stories as I can. I learn from each one, and as you stated, it reminds me that I'm not alone. I appreciate your comment.

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 15 months ago from Central Florida

Dora, this is a most amazing hub. I love that you're highlighting the husbands. True, we women are generally the caregivers, but when the tables are turned, true love prevails.

One of my aunts, who was also my Godmother, developed Dementia in her latter years. My Uncle John (also Godfather and husband to my Aunt Polly) took care of her until she died. Both my aunt and uncle went to live with their daughter (my cousin) once Aunt Polly was diagnosed, but Uncle John was there for the last breath she took. He died a few years later. He had no illnesses and was in his mid to late 80's and even flew in WWII. Perhaps he just missed her too much and decided to join her.

I've seen The Notebook several times. I absolutely love that movie. It drives me to tears every time I watch it. The love that Noah feels for Allie is so strong. I can see the pain he feels when she's "gone", but he lives those those few lucid moments. Talk about the power of love!

I haven't seen the other movies, but I'll certainly keep my eye out for them. I love a good story about love and triumph, especially when it's based on real life.

I really enjoyed this, Dora. What a beautiful post!

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Shauna, thank you for your beautiful comment and sharing the story of your aunt and uncle. Watching these movies helped see that although the Alzheimer's patient is "gone" the caregiver does not have to give in to grief (though sometimes they may), they can choose to improve their own lives by practicing love, compassion and the like. I've ordered some other Alzheimer's movies to watch. Your comment is very encouraging.

aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 15 months ago from Stillwater, OK

This is a very real problem. It is wonderful that movies are being made about it, as it gives people the chance to prepare for it, should it strike in their family.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Hi Deb, thanks for your comment. There are several movies showing people in different scenarios and some of them give information caregivers should know.

Kelsey Farrell profile image

Kelsey Farrell 14 months ago from Orange County, CA

Love this hub. It is such a devastating disease that really affects so much more than the mind. My husband is a neuroscience student who studies Alzheimer's (among many diseases) and I truly hope one day that there will be a cure made.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Kelsey. I appreciate your feedback. Kudos to your husband and all who are contributing to the cure.

annart profile image

annart 12 months ago from SW England

You are doing such a sterling job, Dora, with your hubs about Alzheimer's. It needs to be discussed. I know the frustration it can cause but there are many who are selfless because they have true love for their partners even if they are no longer recognised. These are touching examples but I guess there are many more the world over. Thanks for showing us these.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 12 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Annart. I find it empowering to notice some positive behaviors in the midst of this depressing Alzheimer's process. Glad you appreciate this.

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