“All Through the Night” Teaches Important Lessons About Alzheimer’s

“All Through the Night” is a short film starring actor Tim Daly as a father living with Alzheimer’s and Luke Slattery playing his son. Writer/director Graham Marvin, 35, wrote this film about his relationship with his own father, who at 83 is nearly 50 years older than him and suffers from memory loss.

Graham’s father is a retired (yet still active) choral conductor, composer, teacher and author. As Graham was growing up, he attended all of his father’s concerts, although he admittedly didn’t really like or appreciate them. But as he got older, Graham found beauty and appreciation in his father’s work. This documentary was one way Graham was able to express this to his father.

Music Is Significant in So Many Aspects of Graham’s and His Father’s Lives

Graham’s goal in writing the documentary was to capture a son’s relationship with his father told over the course of his relationship with music and art. Graham’s father, Jim Marvin, doesn’t have dementia, but at times he can be a bit forgetful about details. Graham’s documentary touches upon the following themes and lessons about living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia:

  • There is a truly remarkable link between music and memory. Graham attributes his father’s ability to keep his memory loss from worsening to the important role of music in his life. Graham expresses how his father continues to conduct and write music, although he is officially retired. This helps to keep his brain sharp. Graham invited his dad to join him as a collaborator on the film. Not only did he arrange the music for the film, but he helped the actor who was playing him learn how to conduct. Please see my many articles on music and Alzheimer’s for more details about the powerful role of music in keeping your brain sharp and staving off dementia.
  • Dementia is unpredictable. According to Tim Daly, who plays Graham’s dad in the film, “(i)t’s hard to draw a straight line between something that happens and the way the person with dementia will react. I’ve been on the receiving end where I’ve experienced someone with dementia not knowing who I was. Then I left the room to grab a cup of coffee and when I returned the person said, ‘Hey Tim, how are you doing?’ It is cruel what Alzheimer’s does, not only to the person who has it but to their families. But we cling onto those lucid moments with hope.”
  • Alzheimer’s disease impacts not only those who have it, but the people around them, including caregivers, family members, and friends. Daly describes this from his experience in his role as someone with Alzheimer’s:
    • In the beginning stage, Daly believes that it must be terrifying for the person who is living with the disease. In the case of his character, fear and shame present themselves as anger and frustration.
    • As the disease advances, his character becomes less and less of the person he was. At first, the reaction from his family was annoyance that the person wasn’t trying hard enough to fight the changes that the disease was causing.
    • Over the course of time, there was more understanding among family members. They came to realize that it’s not the person’s fault and that they can’t control what is happening to them. Both sides who are impacted by this disease struggle to cope with the changes. Daly believes that it’s a very painful journey, and sometimes it is a kind of hopeful journey, like the one you see in this film.
  • When your parent is so much older than you (nearly 50 years older in this case), things can happen a lot sooner in your life than for others. You may be a young father in your thirties who is also caring for a much older parent, doing some of the same things for both your son and your dad, including helping with bathing, toileting, dressing, and more.
  • Have a conversation with your loved ones. Tim Daly believes that the arts have a unique ability to tell important stories and that this documentary is especially important now because of Alzheimer’s risk to the aging population and the huge burden the disease has on unpaid caregivers. According to Daly:
    • “Films like this give people the opportunity to open the door to this conversation, whether it’s because you know someone who’s going through this, whether you’re going through it yourself, or whether you might go through it in the future… We should shine a light on this topic and dissipate some of the shame surrounding Alzheimer’s for the people who are facing it.”
    • He also says, “I’d say that for so many things that we as humans go through in life – it could be Alzheimer’s, a mental illness or a disability – they’re accompanied by a lot of shame. I think having dialogue is a way to dissipate that shame and having a film like this one is another way of letting people know it’s okay to talk about it. Like most things in life, you’re not alone. You’re not the only person going through it. You can find a community that can help you, share in your experiences and find strategies about how to deal with it. That’s a huge step forward.”

One of the beautiful things about this story is the example of how change is inevitable, but it can be navigated. Graham hopes that this film raises awareness and sparks more conversations, as well, and emphasizes to others with a parent experiencing memory loss that “(y)ou are not alone.”

Are You a Family Caregiver for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s?

If you are a caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, it is wise to plan in advance, especially with the catastrophic costs of long-term care. At the Farr Law Firm, we assist our clients with Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection, the process of protecting your assets from having to be completely spent down paying privately for long-term care, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. We help our clients ensure that their loved ones get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life. Please call us whenever you are ready to make an appointment:

Medicaid Asset Protection Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Elder Law Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Estate Planning Rockville: 301-519-8041
Elder Care DC: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.