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Touch, bubbles and buns for dementia

It Is Not Over Yet
Regissør: Louise Detlefsen
(Danmark)

DEMENS: Sykepleier May Bjerre Eiby har utviklet en ny behandlingsmetode av eldre med demens, med klokkertro på «klem og kake».

It Is Not Over Yet is a touching documentary that will change our view of ourselves and our humanity. Louise Detlefsen has filmed life at a nursing home in Dagmarsminde in Denmark, where people with dementia are treated with compassion and seem to live a pleasant life.

Detlefsen challenges our perception of dementia and offers a completely new perspective on the last phase of life. Most of all, she reminds us that even though we know a lot about growing up, we know little about growing old.

Dignity

As the average age increases, we also have a stronger need to gain more control over the very last phase of life. The Swiss organization Dignitas, which "advocates for improved care and choice in life and at the end of life" and became known through Michel Houellebecq's novel The map and the terrain (The Map and the Territory, 2010), offers a radical way to gain control over life (or rather death).

A certainty that death is near, and not least exactly when it comes, may in itself be something one prefers rather than living with the uncertainty of what awaits us in old age. In any case, the current debate about euthanasia and assisted suicide seems outdated, after covid-19 has reminded us that taking care of the elderly is a responsibility that rests on those who are left.

This applies to all of us, whether we have aging relatives or because we are worried
for our own future.

We have recognized that in many parts of the world, poor care and poor hygiene in nursing homes and nursing homes have made a rapid spread of covid-19 possible, which has caused many deaths among the oldest in our society.

"The right of the strongest" can admittedly be a driving force in the development of nature, but not in society. That we take care of the weakest, even the old, is what makes us human.

Better than at home

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But how do we take care of the weakest and oldest in the best possible way? When you watch the film, you realize that we know very little about what works best. Yet this question applies to all of us, whether we have aging relatives or because we worry about our own future.

Many will probably also recognize themselves in the experience of the Dagmarsminde founder, the nurse May Bjerre Eiby, who herself experienced a painful loss of her father due to the nursing home's neglect.

This is the very first thing we are told in the film, a story that introduces the main character, the nurse, who is a young woman with a lot of compassion. Bjerre Eiby was determined, studied and saved money for many years to be able to develop the nursing home according to his own convictions. Her determination in combination with her blonde hair and angel-like nature makes her appear like a heroine that is easy to like. It is a real pleasure to follow her while she carefully and with great self-confidence performs the daily chores in the operation of the nursing home.

But the most startling thing in the film is the method "Compassion Treatment", which Bjerre Eiby has developed together with his employees. She was inspired by the methods introduced by Florence Nightingale 150 years ago, as well as the Danish philosopher Løgstrup. This method is completely different from the way people with dementia are usually treated in the public health service.

Believe me, after watching the film, you will sincerely hope that May Bjerre Eiby is right, and that you can really treat dementia with "hugs, touch, talk, humor, eye contact, cake, nature, bubbles and the joys of community", as the method is described in the nursing home's brochures.

Between two deaths

Louise Detlefsen is an experienced documentary filmmaker. In a statement about the film, she carefully describes her approach to how she established good relations with the elderly and the staff at the nursing home and at the same time put in place routines that respected the residents' privacy.

She introduces "Compassion Treatment" as a controversial method in the film, and even though no mention is made of the controversy itself, she should not be blamed for idealizing the method. On the contrary, within the film's basic structure, the plot is realistically placed in the time period between two deaths.

Detlefsen challenges our perception of ademens and bpå a whole new
perspective on the last phase of life.

In the beginning, we get an insight into the nursing home's daily routines and what happens when the residents are informed that one of the residents has run out of time. Towards the end of the film we become involved in a completely different way, now we get the last phase of life seen from the dying person's perspective. In the midst of the monotonous stream of events, which mainly consists of everyday events such as the reception of new residents, birthdays and deaths, we hear about a disturbing event. This incident is never fully explained, and since several questions in this connection are not answered, this indicates quite unequivocally that there are also unanswered questions regarding Bjerre Eiby's nursing home.

But that does not stop the germ of hope that a treatment based on compassion and "a lot of cake" can be the right approach for people with dementia (and hopefully many others) when we grow old. I think this is also the film's goal – to ensure that May Bjerre Eiby and her "Compassion Treatment" method get the attention and publicity it deserves. After all, we have treated dementia and other old age conditions like any other disease, or kept them hidden, for too long.

Translated by Iril Kolle

Melita Zajc
Zajc is a media writer, researcher and film critic. She lives and works in Slovenia, Italy and Africa.

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