October 24, 2023

“Forgetting Christmas” Film Aims to Spotlight Alzheimer’s Caregivers 

The Society for Women’s Health Research spoke with filmmaker Cadell Cook about his upcoming film “Forgetting Christmas,” a story about Alzheimer’s disease. The following blog post captures takeaways from the conversation.

Filmmaker and creative writer Cadell Cook pulled heavily from his own personal experiences when creating his most recent film, “Forgetting Christmas.” Alzheimer’s disease  has had a presence in Cook’s family since he was a young boy, and it has had a lasting impact

“I was too young to recall how my family dealt with my great grandmother’s dementia, but I saw how frustrating it was for my grandfather to care for my grandmother as she got sick with Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the beginning. He never got comfortable with asking for help. When my aunt was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, my family fell apart. It was an emotional tornado, and I’m still dealing with its effects today,” he said.

For many years, Cook avoided discussing Alzheimer’s disease, but now he wants to invite others to join him in conversation. “Without prompting, people keep their experiences of Alzheimer’s disease hidden, which leads to fear and anxiety around the topic. I’ve found that discussing my family history can encourage others to share their experiences, too,” he said.  

His new film follows the Jesup family, an African American family living in Brandywine, MD. For Cook, following an African American family not only reflected his own experiences, but it also allowed him to highlight the stark racial disparities in Alzheimer’s disease. Older Black Americans are twice as likely as older white Americans to have Alzheimer’s or another dementia, and Black patients, along with Hispanic patients, are more likely to be diagnosed in the later stages of the disease. Cook lived this reality. As he describes it,  Alzheimer’s disease was always assumed common in African American communities and “beyond a certain age, almost expected.” 

Greater access to care, additional research, and improved awareness are all important tools for closing this gap in health outcomes. Cook hopes that his film can help reshape conversations around healthy aging and lead to earlier diagnosis for some patients. 

“I’d like the film to encourage Black and Brown people to stop accepting the loss of cognition as part of aging,” he added.

Yet, these are not the film’s only goals. Cook’s greatest aim, he says, is that the film will encourage caregivers to lean on their community for support and seek professional help when needed.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, nearly half of all caregivers who provide help to older adults do so for someone living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and over one-third of dementia caregivers are daughters. Data also show that dementia caregivers face substantial emotional, financial, and physical difficulties, often greater than that of other caregivers.  Therefore, in “Forgetting Christmas,” Cook decided to highlight not only the journey of an Alzheimer’s disease patient, but also of their caregivers, family, and friends. 

“I want the film to stimulate conversation so that caregivers don’t suffer with lifelong guilt and regret,” Cook said, speaking from his own family experience. “Finding a way to eliminate the disease is, of course, important, but we also need to support our communities, so that families a nd friends have less psychological damage.”

The film has already changed how Cook approaches conversations about Alzheimer’s disease and caregiving. “Creating this project has encouraged me to be more active in the lives of friends and family members that carry the difficult title of caregiver. I used to think of Alzheimer’s disease and this corner of my life as dark and hopeless, but I now understand the strength of a community.”


“Forgetting Christmas” is Cook’s first feature length project. The film will premiere on November 19, 2023 at the AFI, in Silver Spring, MD. For tickets, click here, or go to Eventbrite.com and search “Forgetting Christmas.”