Netflix debuted the movie I Care a Lot in September 2020 at the Toronto Film Festival to quite the buzz. It was released to the public in mid-February but has recently been gaining more traction as the award season approaches. Most recently, the lead actress in the film, Rosamund Pike, won a Golden Globe for Best Actress.

The film itself centers on a rather tricky subject: senior guardianship. The main character played by Rosamund Pike is a legal guardian with shady intentions, using her authority to con seniors out of their money while sending them to retirement communities against their will. Pike’s character meets her match, though, when she attempts to become the guardian of Jennifer Peterson, played by Dianne Wiest. It seems that Jennifer has ties with very dangerous people who are not pleased with the new guardianship. Naturally, chaos ensues, and viewers find themselves cheering for anyone who can defeat the crooked guardian.

While I Care a Lot is gaining critical acclaim, it is also meeting a chorus of senior living and legal professionals who are fighting against the negative stereotypes the film perpetuates. Whether or not you choose to watch the film, it is important to understand how senior living is portrayed correctly and incorrectly.

Residents Don’t Just Sit Around and Watch TV

In the opening sequence of I Care a Lot, the viewer sees a montage of scenes from a retirement community. In one of the shots, residents are sitting in a large group and watching television while nurses bring trays of pills to give out.

In reality, senior living communities are active and vibrant! Although you certainly have the choice to relax and watch television, there aren’t large groups of residents staring at the television. And as for medication assistance? Nurses are discreet and helpful.

Guardians Do Not Have Control of Resident Communication

Perhaps one of the most startling parts of the movie is when we realize that Jennifer, the senior, is unable to call or contact anyone while she is in the retirement community. We see her guardian take away Jennifer’s cell phone and give instructions to the staff to not allow Jennifer to contact anyone. Further, we learn a bit later that the guardian has also dictated that anyone who wants to contact Jennifer must do so through the guardian.

In reality, residents in senior living always have the ability to communicate with their friends and family. In fact, senior living team members encourage it and are there to help out with setting up video calls or reminding residents to charge their cell phones. Guardians don’t have the ability to tell staff members what to do in regards to communication because residents have rights.

Guardians Don’t Dictate Medication

Another frightening scene is when the guardian seeks to pay retribution to Jennifer because Jennifer won’t tell her more about the dangerous ties Jennifer has. The guardian marches into the retirement community administration office and demands that the resident be put on a variety of medications, including a stimulant in the evening so that she doesn’t have good sleep. The administrator agrees immediately.

In reality, a guardian (whether legal or family) doesn’t have the right to dictate senior living residents’ medication schedules or the types of medicines they receive. Instead, physicians order medications based on each resident’s health and needs. Family members are updated on medication changes via the care plan process as well as upon request.

There are plenty of inaccurate and incorrect portrayals in the movie, and although it is entertainment, it can be damaging to older adults and family members who might be considering senior living. The film can also cause anxiety when it comes to guardianships, especially because it doesn’t cover the ins and outs of power of attorney designations and other advance directives.

Make sure you have the correct information by downloading our free resource, Senior Living Demystified. You’ll learn more about senior living solutions as well as the financial side of planning for senior living.

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