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Is It Ok To Be Selfish, Or Human?

“Are you one of the nearly 15.7 million people who care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia?” Yes, I am. Did I want this to happen to me? No. Did I think this would happen to me? No. Did I think this would happen to my dad? No, yet here we are today. I didn’t ask for this, but here I am anyway, and it’s been a whirlwind life-changing rollercoaster. The same can be said for a young woman named Anne from the 2020 Sony Pictures movie The Father.

Anne addresses how tough her role is as her father’s caregiver by saying, “You can’t imagine how difficult it is sometimes. The other day, he didn’t even recognize me.” As difficult as it may be sometimes, is it selfish for a caregiver to only think about their needs and send their parents away, or is it simply human nature to know your limits and acknowledge when enough is enough? Sometimes I question that myself.

Sometimes I ask myself if it’s wrong of me to complain, when my dad deals with worse challenges than me. The movie mirrors these conflicting feelings, as well as anecdotes from people who’ve been in my shoes. In the movie, Anne talks to her boyfriend Paul about what’s best for her dad by criticizing his negative attitude about him. From Paul’s perspective, the conversation is about what’s best for Anne by encouraging her to consider a nursing home for her dad by saying, “…you do so much for him, and I respect that. I mean, you took the decision to bring him here and you know why not, but I honestly think you must come up with a better solution.”

Anne rejects the idea by expressing how unfair it would be to her dad by saying, “Why are you saying this to me now? Tomorrow we’ve got this girl starting.” Paul was encouraging Anne to let herself be human and take care of herself, and Anne rejected it thinking it would be too selfish for her dad’s well-being. This resonates well with a woman named Cathy Hurd from an article published by the Alzheimer Society. She expresses how she’s a natural caregiver, so it’s difficult to separate her needs from her husband Boz who has dementia.

She acknowledges her need to take care of herself more while also addressing her circumstances by saying, “I recognize that I should do more for myself, like getting back to the gym. I get respite through provincial programs, but it only allows me enough time to shop and clean.” In the movie, the main character Anthony is confronted by a hallucinated image of Anne’s ex-husband who asks him how long he plans on being a burden to his daughter by saying, “I’d like to know your opinion. I mean, do you intend to go on ruining your daughter’s life, or is it too much to hope you might behave reasonably in the foreseeable future?”

The ex-husband was confronting Anthony on how selfish he’s letting his disease be in robbing Anne of the right to be human and take care of herself. This relates to Jen’s story that was published by the Alzheimer's Society. Jen talks about how her dad’s dementia was rough for her mom to handle and even though placing him in a nursing home was hard it was the right thing to do by saying, “She was trapped, in a way. We helped her make the decision about the care home, reassuring her that even though she felt guilty it was the right decision. There comes a point where you just must realize you can’t give him the care he needs.”

Finally, the movie has a scene where Paul talks to Anthony over dinner about Anne’s work as a caregiver saying, “You satisfied? You have a daughter who looks after you properly, and you’re lucky.” He says this sarcastically because he sees how Anne’s job affects her, but Anthony’s too selfish to let her go. Referencing back to Anne’s statement, Anne’s aware of her struggles as a caregiver and this resonates with an anecdote that’s published in an article on Desert Sun. A man named Bob Butner explained how he and his nurses went through a lot to care for his mom with dementia.

When it finally became too much to bear, Bob explained how it was a relief to let her go saying, “I told Mom I would NEVER put her in a nursing home” this was a common theme, yet having tried their best and finally concluding “I just can’t do it anymore” was a kind of relief that now compassionate professionals were there to help and provide the 24 - hour care and supervision that residents require.”

In conclusion, as an autism advocate who is also autistic, I tell people how important it is to not treat autistic people like a burden, and they should understand them and properly take care of them by accommodating their needs. So, naturally I should feel the same about people with dementia, right? Well, autism is not a disease, it’s another way of living for people who are born differently. No one’s born with dementia. It’s a disease that occurs later, and the effects can be overwhelming for both patient and caregiver. Therefore, I shouldn’t feel guilty about expressing my struggles as a caregiver. I’m human first, and a caregiver second. That’s something I appreciate about this movie. It doesn’t just focus on what’s best for Anthony, it focuses on what’s best for Anne as well. In the end, Anne chose to take care of herself by placing her dad in a nursing home. That doesn’t make her a selfish person, it makes her a human being who’s reached her limit and is ready to say ‘enough’. She did the best she could, no one can say she never tried, and that’s enough.

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