Reel Caregiving: Glimpses of Caregiving – The Fundamentals of Caring

Movie Review Courtesy: Tanishka Pillai

“Caregiving is not just about feeding and clothing and cleaning. It is also about understanding how to navigate a complicated relationship between those who give care and those who are in need of it” .

Fundamentals of Caring is a heartwarming story about Ben, a retired writer who is hired by Elsa to take care of her teenage son, Trevor. Trevor suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a rare genetic disorder that affects the muscles of his body.

A Caretaker’s Perspective: Ben

During his caretaker certification course Ben is introduced to the mnemonic device ‘ALOHA’. ALOHA stands for Ask, Listen, Observe, Help and Ask again. It is used as a guideline for caretakers to remember not to get too emotionally invested in their job.

As a caretaker Ben’s responsibilities include helping Trevor use the toilet, stretching his muscles daily, clothing, feeding and medicating Trevor. Ben is able to match up to Trevor’s level of humor thereby gaining his trust which leads to the beginning of a new friendship. Trevor and Ben start developing a strong bond which Trevor has not shared previously with any other caretaker. Ben prioritizes Trevor’s needs over his own. His personal life is in turmoil as he is going through a divorce and overcoming the death of his son. Yet, he does not let these emotions come in the way and helps Trevor in every way that he can. The two of them take a road trip together where their bond further strengthens. Trevor does not have a father and Ben has lost his son- yet they make it very clear that they are not going to fill this void with one another.  After the trip, Ben realizes that he is very attached to Trevor and decides to quit as his caretaker. However, he continues his personal friendship with Trevor and finally takes his advice and begins writing a book on Trevor’s life.

“I can’t take care of someone else unless I first take care of myself …  All I can do is try my best and maintain a positive attitude”.

Trevor’s needs encompassing all aspects of Ben’s life is something that is seen in the real world as well. More often than not, caregivers and caretakers  put the needs of the person receiving care above their own needs. They begin to prioritize the person so much that they often neglect their own well being.

Understanding the Family Caregiver’s Concerns: Elsa

Elsa is a single mother who has raised Trevor by herself since her husband left them when Trevor was only three years old. Being the sole financial provider of the house, Elsa works very hard as Trevor’s medical treatments, medicines, CPAP and other machines are financially draining. She has just recently moved to USA from England and is the branch manager of a bank. Throughout the movie, Elsa has never complained about her situation and manages to handle her work and personal life efficiently. She goes out of her way and regularly writes letters to Trevor on behalf of her good-for-nothing husband so that Trevor has some sort of fatherly love and care in his life.  This highlights the extent  Elsa will go to ensure her son’s well-being.  She is also very thorough with Trevor’s medical needs and hires Ben to look after Trevor while she is at work.

The bond shared by Ben and Trevor worries Elsa, as she does not want Ben to “make promises that he can’t keep”. She asks him not to get too close to Trevor and stick to ALOHA, nothing less and nothing more. She urges him to maintain professional decorum for both their sake. It is evident that everything Elsa does is with the sole motive of looking after and providing the best for her son. When hiring professional caretakers, this is a common worry that most family caregivers have as well.

This movie is available to watch on Netflix

In our next segment on Reel Caregiving, we will explore caregiving in another movie. Watch this space!


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