“ALIVE INSIDE” (Film): One man’s quixotic quest to humanize the hospital model of “nursing home” care

Do you realize that when Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security act, he established this program under health care rather than welfare? Do you realize that this structural decision, no matter how well-meaning, is what set the stage for the dehumanizing, medicated, lonely “hospital model” of nursing home care?

The above paragraph illustrates only one of many revelations dropped in like tiny brilliant jewels during the slightly more than one hour I spent, open-mouthed and teary, devouring this 2014 film. Though focused on one man who sought to bring music with personal meaning to “patients” with dementia, the filmmaker not only documents their coming alive through invoking memory with music, but broadens the scope to enliven our reflections on age, aging, history, culture, stimulation, our universal human need for rhythm, connection, expression — and more, much more. “Alive Inside” is the appropriate response to the post “How we used to die; how we die now” which has so far garnered nearly a million views on this one blog.

I stumbled into “Alive Inside” this evening, streaming on Netflix, under “Documentary.” The title itself attracted me, since during our Mom’s final years, I enjoyed the gift of her presence. When we were alone together, she always came forward. The fog would part — to reveal her essence, her soul. It was clear: she was alive inside. And I knew it. And she knew I knew it. The dementia had dissolved her persona; there was nothing more to hide. At the time, I sensed we were both relieved to finally be real together. What remains now is gratitude.

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