December 23, 2009

Ed Kashi interviewed about Sandwich Generation

Harvard's The Neiman Storyboard recently interviewed Ed Kashi, focusing on the TEM produced film, The Sandwich Generation. The interview dives into Ed's mindset at the time, in exposing himself and his family in such an intimate, personal way.

"I’m not into navel gazing...[but] I realized we could either focus the project on ourselves, or we could pass on it. I thought we should give it a shot."

Click here for more information and links to the film The Sandwich Generation.

LA Times Discloses ER Wait Times

Can you guess what these activities have in common: Reading a Marquez novella, flying from NYC to London, driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco, walking the NY marathon and waiting to see a doctor in a South LA emergency room? They can all take about 7 hours to accomplish. If you're in an L.A. County ER the wait time is 12 hours, according to an unpublished report by the Hospital Association of Southern California and reported by Kimi Yoshino for the LA Times.

At a time when the country is poised to enact health care reform legislation, it's alarming that emergency room wait times seem to be increasing, rather than getting better. As we continue working on FIRESTORM, we'll be tracking issues related to emergency medical care, bringing needed attention to ER problems falling under the radar with the goal of contributing to improving conditions.

December 21, 2009

Another Strayer University student essay

Thank you again to Strayer University's Professor Abramson and her Intro. to Sociology class for sharing their Losing Herbie essays. Below, Nakisha Patterson discusses the film and the devastating effects of dementia.

This reflection essay is about Herbie, an elderly man who is in the last stages of dementia. In this short film Herbie’s family focused on making his last days as productive as possible. As I reflected back on the film, the following three things stood out: living with dementia, caring for a loved one with dementia, and expressing feelings or emotions associated with elderly family members.

Three aspects to consider

Dementia is a cognitive disorder that deprives the mind and body by causing long term decline in cognitive function. This disease effect the ability to process thought patterns. In the short film, my thoughts of a person living with dementia made me feel sad. I felt sad, because the short film explained how Herbie’s life was before acquiring the disease and then living with the disease. Living with the disease really changed his life. Herbie went from; vibrant and smooth to not knowing what he was doing at times or where he was at.

Imagine caring for a person with dementia like Herbie, knowing him before and after the disease takes a hold of his body can be hard to deal with. One must be cared for, as though; they are an infant or in the beginning stage of life. Bathing, feeding, and assisting them with everyday tasks. Herbie forgot how to do everything, which; really affected his loved ones. In the video Herbie’s girlfriend was unable to handle this situation. Caring for him was too much for her to handle.

Dementia affects everyone associated with the patient including the grandchildren and the in-laws. It has to be hard, seeing your loved one deteriorate before your own eyes. The emotional roller coaster that his daughter went through, had to be very stressful. In the video, Herbie’s daughter had a tough time juggling; work, kids, husband, and her father Herbie. Sometimes she made herself sick, by stressing so much.

When it comes to feeling as though you are losing a loved one to dementia, it is important to remember the good times you had with them. Understand that things will change, and remember that this disease is out of their control. This video was put together, so that; one is able to determine how to care for a person with dementia and possible outcomes that might arise that effects everyone in the family, who attempts to care for family member with Dementia. It takes a lot of time and patience but most of all the love and passion that should never be lost.

- Nakisha Patterson

December 16, 2009

"Losing Herbie" hits close to home for Strayer Univ. student

Strayer University sociology professor, Terry Abramson, asked her class to write an essay on our film Losing Herbie. Below is the first of the five student essays that we will be posting here on our blog. Please welcome our first student, John Washington.

The purpose of this essay is to inform the reader about my personnel reaction to the video entitled "Losing Herbie". This essay will convey my feelings about the three subject matters that struck me the most as I reflected on the video. I have first hand experience with this subject matter, as I am the son of an Alzheimer’s victim. I use the term victim to express Alzheimer’s disease as a thief who has yet to be caught.

I realize that this essay is to be written about the three most shocking issues that stand out to me in the video but this topic hit me too close to home to only write about the video. I must say that I was not emotionally or geographically prepared to watch this video. I was not emotionally prepared due to the fact that this essay is the most communication about this issue that I have participated in since my mother’s death from complications of Alzheimer’s disease on September 28, 2007. 20 days after my birthday.

I was not geographically prepared because my internet service has been temporally interrupted; however I found a solution to this problem at my second job. In exchange for computer time in the back, I help my fellow sports bar co-workers with their clean up duties at closing while they manage my area. Someone always goes for the deal because they get to keep my tips.

As soon as I realized what the video was about I stopped it because I could feel suppressed emotions beginning to work their way to the surface and I didn’t want my co-workers to see my reaction. My eyes began to get glassy and my nose started to run just from watching 2 or 3 minutes of the video. Damn! I thought I was done with that part of my life. I never thought I would have to write about it. I decided to watch a little at a time while moving back and forth from work to the video until I got through it.

Finding out

Watching the "Losing Herbie" video for the first time made me think about the very first time that I witnessed my mother’s disease in action. In 2002 I took a vacation to visit my Mom at her home in Asbury Park N.J. While at her home she said she wanted to speak to someone about a bill she was disputing with a local heating and air company who claimed to performed work on her furnace.

While we were sitting in the office of the heating and air company, my Mom vehemently claimed that the service technician had never been to her home and that she had never seen him before and therefore was not paying this bill. Her testimony was so convincing that she had everyone in the room convinced that there must be some kind of mistake about who the bill was sent to and the home the work was performed in.

The manager decided to call the technician who was in the field at the time and asked him to come to the shop. When the technician arrived, he confirmed that my mother was definitely the home owner and in fact she offered him some pistachio ice cream, which also happens to be the only ice cream my mother ever bought home as far as I can remember. At this point I’m thinking to myself, how could he have known about the ice cream?

His statement was so shocking to her that she got up and as though her life depended on it, yelled “you’re a liar”! I still remember how confused I was when the technician described the front room, kitchen and basement area of her home to me.

That was the first time that I knew something was terribly wrong. I convinced her to let me take her to the hospital the next day. They told me that she had been transported to their facility before, because she had become lost while trying to drive home. A copy of her records indicated that she had been diagnosed with dementia in 1995. The only thing I knew about Alzheimer’s disease at that time was that it had something to do with memory loss for elderly people.

Effect on the family

My Second thought about the video was about the level of stress and frustrations that were evident within the family. There are forces that will rip at the fabric of Herbie’s family as the years tic by. I feel like most people who make the decision to take care of a parent with Alzheimer’s don’t really know how it will affect their current lifestyle. I consider myself to be someone who thinks about a problem and then develops steps to solve the problem. In my opinion there is no way for any family to be half way prepared to handle a task of this magnitude.

Long Term care and death

In 2003, I moved my Mother in with my family, this was the third issue the grabbed my attention in the video. We had a 7 and 8 year old boy and girl that needed a lot of attention in school, sports and at home. My wife and I both worked full time jobs and the kids were in sports all year. I felt like the family in the video was very much like my family when in it came to allocating time and resources to Herbie.

The strain on the family budget will become the topic for many late night arguments. There will be bills that will progressively grow larger as the disease progresses. At one point in time I could barely afford the $15 dollar registration fees to get my kids into the seasonal sport because I was spending so much money on my Moms medication.

After my Moms death in 2007, it’s clear that only one half of my family recovered. The kids bounced back with energy, while my wife and I still have not fully recovered from ill feelings of past conversations.


I’m willing to bet that when Herbie’s family found out the bad news about her dad having Alzheimer’s disease they begin to search for all the information they could find on the subject, without devoting too much time to the hunt for information they soon find that they were dealing with a criminal that prays on people from all walks of life. They soon find out that this criminal works slow and steady until he robs his victims of every brain activity that is needed to maintain life.

There are no winners in this battle to hold on to a loved one. The family and the patient take the brunt of this storm head on, and when the clouds clear there are only casualties left to sort through the debris.

I would wager a bet that says regardless of faith, race, or culture. That if a person could see a one hour film summarizing what their life would be like when faced with the onset and final outcome of Alzheimer’s. That 90 out of 100 people would say “I want to be euthanized when I reach a particular stage.”

- John Washington

December 15, 2009

Welcome back Strayer University students!

Last April, we posted essays from Professor Terry Abramson's “Intro to Sociology” class at Strayer University. Professor Abramson incorporates Losing Herbie (part 2 of The Sandwich Generation) into her class curriculum by first having her students watch the film and then by having them write an essay about it.

This semester, the students were asked to write an essay describing the three things that struck them the most when watching the video. Below are excerpts from five students' heartfelt essays. We will post the five essays (in their entirety) over the next few weeks.

Student 1: I have first hand experience with this subject matter, as I am the son of an Alzheimer’s victim. I use the term victim to express Alzheimer’s disease as a thief who has yet to be caught....Watching the “Losing Herbie” video for the first time made me think about the very first time that I witnessed my mother’s disease in action.

Student 2: Dementia is a cognitive disorder that deprives the mind and body by causing long term decline in cognitive function. This disease effects the ability to process thought patterns. In the short film, my thoughts of a person living with dementia made me feel sad. I felt sad, because the short film explained how Herbie’s life was before acquiring the disease and then living with the disease.

Student 3: Throughout the entire documentary the first thing that stood out to me was the emotional journey each family member experienced. Starting with the aging father we were immediately shown how bad his dementia was and when asked a question about what town he lived in, he earnestly answered “I surely cannot remember.”

Student 4: Watching this video hit home for me because I was caretaker for my mother before she died. She died in December 2007 from Lou Gehrig’s Disease/ALS. Losing a loved one is never easy, but taking on the responsibility of caretaker can be even more challenging.

Student 5: After watching Herbie I immediately felt this sense of despair. What would happen to me if I were diagnosed with Dementia? Could my children handle caring for me each and every day as Herbie’s did? The anxiety struck me beyond belief.

So welcome Strayer University

and thank you again to Prof. Abramson and her students!

December 11, 2009

The NYTimes on Military Psycho-Therapy

A recent article in the New York Times caught our attention. In it, James Dao and Dan Frosch examine doctor-patient confidentiality (or lack thereof) in the United States Military psycho-therapy services.

At the beginning of psycho-therapy sessions, soldiers are asked to sign a waiver "explaining that under certain circumstances, including if he admitted violating military laws, his conversations with his therapist might not be kept confidential."

“There really is no confidentiality,” said Kaye Baron, a psychologist in Colorado Springs who has been treating soldiers from Fort Carson and their families for eight years. “You can find an exception to confidentiality in pretty much anything one would discuss.”

It's so bad, that some Military defense lawyer's recommend their clients avoid Doctor's and instead talk to their Chaplain's, because "the privilege rules on their communications are stronger than for therapists."

This creates a lack of trust between the soldier's and the therapists, and prevents them from truly opening up about the horrors of war and how it effects them. It does not take much to draw a line between the ineffective counseling services soldiers are receiving while in the military, and the mental problems that then plague them the rest of their lives, whether they are still active duty members or discharged.

For more on the effects of PTSD on soldiers who've returned home, check out our short film series The Inner Wounds of War.

Below is a short video we created for Purpose Prize '09 Winner Dr. Judith Broder, who created and runs The Soldiers Project, an organization which provides unlimited, free, confidential therapy to combat veterans.

December 4, 2009

In Memory of Henry Liu

On the behalf of Talking Eyes Media, it is with great sadness that we announce the death of 2009 Purpose Prize winner Henry Liu, who was killed in a car accident Tuesday.

TEM got to know Henry during the filming of his Purpose Prize video in August 2009. He was not only an extraordinary person, dedicated to changing the world through his "green" inventions, but Henry was also an especially kind and friendly man. Although I didn't have the chance to meet Henry in person, I was lucky enough to experience his warm and jovial personality through the phone.

Henry's love and passion for his work and "encore" career was as clear as day. During his interview, Henry said that he wouldn't be done working until the last day of his life....and, by the big smile on his face when he said this, anybody can tell that Henry not only meant it but that he would have no regrets about it as well.

Talking Eyes Media extends our deepest condolences to Professor Liu's family and colleagues.