NURS5006 Contacting The Unit Of Study Co-Ordinator


› Choose a creative work (ie book, movie, series of artworks) that explores an illness experience as a central theme of the work.

› You will submit a piece of written work (2000 words) that explains:

› 1) how your chosen creative work reflects the illness experience as it is expressed in the qualitative research literature ie, what themes in the literature seem to resonate with themes in the creative work. You should reference a minimum of 8 qualitative articles to support your writing.

› how your chosen creative work captures elements of theories of subjectivity that are relevant to the particular illness (examples might be biographical disruption, emotionality, abjection, lived temporality, stigma, the disciplined body, etc.)

Under what paradigm do these ideas sit?

How do people reframe their lives around illness?

What is hospitalisation like?

How does illness affect the family?

Why do we need this content?

Why do we need this content?



An illness trajectory is known to focus on the experiences of an individual as they complete the journey of life after development of the illness. Though experiences of illness might be varying among individual, common themes emerge from such experiences on the basis of qualitative research studies.  The present assignment is based on a creative work, the movie ‘Still Alice’ that has an illness experience as a central theme. The essay aims to describe how the chosen creative work is a reflection of the illness experience as it is expressed in the qualitative research literature. The themes embedded in the creative work resonating with themes in the literature are highlighted. It further aims to highlight how the selected creative work captures the elements of theories of subjectivity relevant to the particular illness. A conclusion summarizes the main elements of the experience that would guide a nurse to understand such a person presented in the creative work at the centre of their care.

The movie ‘Still Alice’, directed by Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer had been released in the year 2014. It is an adaption of the acclaimed novel of Lisa Genova in a faithful version, and has received numerous awards since its international release. The main character in the movie is Alice Howland who is a renowned linguistics professor at Columbia University, and is happily married to a physician, named John with three grown up children.  In retrospect the viewers realize that Alice begins to show the subtle signs of familial Alzheimer’s disease. When the 50 year old woman is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Alice and her family struggled to cope up with the distressing and vexing challenge. They face the gradual changes brought about by the terminal degenerative neurological ailment, slowly progressing to an inevitable conclusion. Along the path, Alice is found to be struggling to fight the inner decay, and find peace and love to make the living worthwhile. The film portrays how the once-vibrant woman faces the challenges of being self as long as possible, as her children watch helplessly. The viewers are able to follow the disease progression experienced by Alice, her deterioration, the strategies used for coping with the ailment and the effect on social relationships (Hepburn, 2015).

The primary focus of the movie ‘Still Alice’ is on Alzheimer’s disease and the movie has been successful in portraying multiple signs of the condition across the three distinct stages of it. Alzheimer’s disease is a common form of dementia that is known to cause memory impairment, along with decline in behavior and thinking ability. The impairment with the cognitive abilities are severe enough to cause interference with the daily activities of life. Alzheimer’s disease is known to account for almost 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases (Solomon et al., 2014). Though aging is a risk factor for developing the condition, it is not to be considered as a normal part of aging. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease and it worsens over time. While in the early stage the extent of memory loss is mild, individuals at later stage of the condition do not have the ability to respond to the surrounding environment (Yektatalab, Sharif, Kaveh, Fallahi Khoshknab & Petramfar, 2013).

Mild cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease is the gentle decline in the individual’s cognitive abilities as the person develops a compromised ability to think. Though this is noticeable, it is not deliberating. It has been understood from literature that people suffering from mild cognitive impairment tend to experience forgetfulness as evident from misplacement of objects, forgetfulness regarding appointments and having difficulty in remembering individuals they meet (Prorok, Horgan & Seitz, 2013). In the film ‘Still Alice’, Alice is found to be referring to her condition as mild cognitive impairment at the initial stage. However, the symptoms that she demonstrates fit the accurately the profile for early stage Alzheimer’s disease. Though early stage Alzheimer’s encompasses all the signs applicable for mild cognitive impairment, they are much more intensified. The forgetfulness is more deliberating and frequent. People who suffer from early stage Alzheimer’s face significant issues planning and subsequently organizing tasks that make it difficult to perform the same. Nevertheless, individuals are aware of their personal details and other crucial aspects of their lives (Ilha et al., 2018).  While some health care organizations do not make a distinction between the two conditions, others do, and the movie has been found to be following the second model. The film has been successful in portraying accurately a number of signs of early stage Alzheimer’s. For example, Alice is found to be momentarily not able to think of a certain word during her presentation. Further, at the Christmas dinner, Alice reintroduces herself to her son’s girlfriend in spite of having introduced herself five minutes earlier. Further, Alice is found to be lost while going out to run in the neighborhood, and has moments of not knowing that is in the Columbia university campus where she has worked for years. In addition, she forgets a planned dinner date with her husband John.

Moving further with the movie, the characteristics of moderate stage of Alzheimer’s is highlighted through the experiences of Alice. As the first trace of this stage, Alice wears a bracelet that states ‘memory impaired’. The condition worsens to the degree that she is at high risk of getting lost. Alice is found to be repeating questions and is not able to remember where the bathroom is, leading her to wet herself. After watching her daughter Lydia in a play, Alice is not able to recognize her as her daughter. As pointed out by Lancioni et al., (2009), a person suffering from dementia is likely to suffer from confusion and forget places and environment. Certain section of the population is likely to have bladder problems that worsen over time. The film also shows that Alice has memories of her sister and mother who had died in a car crash long time back when she was eighteen years old. This is typical of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s since individuals retain memories of past events longer than those of recent times (Edmunds, 2018). Further, Alice engages in an argument with her daughter Lydia. Later on she apologizes and confesses that though she remembered she had a fight, she was unable to recall the reason for the same. According to Varela, Varona, Anderson and Sansoni (2011) during the moderate stage of Alzheimer’s, symptoms are much more accurate. Patients have increased difficulty in carrying out regular tasks and daily activities of life become complicated. Changes in personality traits might be evident.

The late or severe stage of Alzheimer’s is known to involve a distinct intensification of the symptoms suffered in the moderate stage. The most evident change is the increased loss of functions of the individual. Patients are known to fail to understand and recognize the present situations. Further, they might have decline ability to identify individuals, including self. There is a dramatic impairment in the ability of individuals to communicate with others. Along with gradual decline in the physical capability, there is loss of ability to maintain stable mental wellbeing status (Valgardsdottir, Olason, Hannesdottir, Gretarsdottir & Snaedal, 2013). The symptoms might be evident at a very later stage of the disease. Assistance is needed for carrying out daily activities of living such as eating, dressing and bathing (Kallmyer, 2012). The consensus is that patients suffering from later stages of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are not to be left alone since they are at high risk of suffering adverse events (Karlsson, Sävenstedt, Axelsson & Zingmark, 2014). As a reflection of this stage, the scene can be pointed out where Alice is not able to keep track of time.