A short film examining the life and death spaces and places of older people in the time of COVID-19. It tackles the decisions that they make regarding health, the resulting consequences, and the profound effect of "homeplace" on their lives.
I wanted to explore the stigmatization of older people and older people's health; the extremely difficult patient experience of those with Alzheimer's and Dementia in acute health care settings; the impact that COVID-19, fear and the need for control and independence had on an elderly couple's life; ideas of care rationing; and the fundamental desire to remain at home and age (and die) in place. This is a deeply personal story. This is the story of my father and our experience over the course of October and November. I cared for him during hospice and in the hospital every day, all day and night. In the moments when I would step outside to walk, I realized I was living my dissertation research. I wanted to honor him and to show how the social determinants of health were playing out in his life and his wife's life. I wanted to capture the moments of quiet space - things he and I would look at around the farm while we walked together before he became gravely ill. I shot at various times, always when I was taking a break, and always with the sound of the trees and wind and the places he held dear in mind.
Filming was a spontaneous response - not planned at all. It was just a way for me to capture him as much as I could (though I don't show him in the film) to keep him with me. But it profoundly changed the way I experienced my research on health inequity. I absolutely would have preferred not to have had to make this film. But what I was finding in the acute settings of the hospital - how older people with Alzheimer's were being treated, how decisions were being made regarding my father, the lived experience of fear and control in the home to keep him from being sent to a care home, were visceral embodiments of situated realities. It is one thing to research from a distance and entirely another to experience it in person. Film allowed me to show and not tell his story - in ways that writing a paper, or even a poem, or doing one of my spoken word performances, simply could not capture - and in 3 minutes. Challenges for me are always around editing - learning the software, etc. But the real challenge is ensuring that there is not exploitation of the persons involved - either of their story, their experience, or who they are as people. To film in a way that allows people to know what's being experienced without using images or shock value presentations that pre-suppose or power-induce a person's lived reality. Filming always requires difficult decisions about our own prejudices, power positions, and attitudes (in this case around elder health and health iniquities). I found, in the end, that this may be an impossible task, but no more than writing, and that there is a profound need for filmic research of older people's health inequities.
Review 1. It is easy to understand this is a very personal and intimate film. It is a great film to discuss the relationship between fieldwork, research and its symbolic representation through the audiovisual medium.
Review 2. Affective and effective use of personal place and placemaking to tell a moving story of our time.