For Melbourne filmmaker Corinne Maunder, it was having a grandmother with dementia that first sparked her interest in documenting the care that’s available all around the world for people living with the condition. “There’s a lot of discussion today about the inadequacies that exist in dementia care, but there’s also some incredibly innovative work being done to enhance the lives of people living with dementia,” says Maunder, 32, who has now made films about memory care communities in New South Wales, Queensland and California through her own company, Fire Films.
Documenting innovation in dementia care is a long way from her previous work on the set of dramatic, big-budget television shows like City Homicide, The Pacific, Rush and Underbelly, but Maunder is clearly passionate about her work. “A lot of people say, ‘Why do you care about this? You’re young,’” says Maunder. “But it’s very fulfilling to know that the films I’m making are being used around the world to promote better ways of caring for and empowering people living with dementia.”
Fire Films produces health-related films, documentaries and educational videos that hope to raise awareness and drive change by focusing on reducing inequalities in health and wellbeing, prevention and early intervention, social change, and fostering creativity and innovation in science and technology.
Maunder studied a degree in digital television production and started her first business at age 19 filming wedding videos on weekends. “I pursed a career in filmmaking, but when I was younger I always planned to be a doctor,” she says. “So it made sense to move into making health-related films, which I did about three years ago. My Nan had dementia so I decided to make a short-film about that as my first health project.”
Maunder approached Alzheimer’s Australia Vic for a specific topic to make the film about, and they suggested she attend an upcoming photo exhibition depicting people living with dementia around the world. The exhibition was called ‘Love Loss and Laughter’ and was the work of US sociologist turned photographer Cathy Greenblat. “I interviewed Cathy and she gave me some great insight into what’s possible in dementia care. We just really hit it off and have now become great friends.”
The film Maunder made, ‘Love, Loss and Laughter: Living with Dementia’ , which featured Greenblat’s exhibition, ended up getting into a film festival and received worldwide publicity.
Greenblat then asked Maunder if she would team up with her on an international multimedia project that showcases gold standard dementia care. They’ve named this project ‘Side by Side: Love and Joy in Dementia Care’.
In 2014, Maunder made ‘Finding the Why: Enabling Active Participation in Life in Aged Care’ about the work of Colin McDonnell, Care Service Manager of Uniting Starrett Lodge on the NSW Central Coast. Later that year she also made ‘It Takes A Community’, which looks at Arcare Helensvale in Brisbane.
Maunder says Greenblat then convinced her she must travel to California to visit Silverado, a memory care provider with over 30 communities across six US states. “The great thing about Silverado is that they started with one outstanding community, which is an achievement in itself, but for them to be able to instill and nurture their unique culture of love across all their communities, as well as their at home and hospice care, is truly something remarkable.”
In ‘Love Lives Here,’ Maunder filmed at four of Silverado’s communities in southern California: Sierra Vista, Beach Cities, San Juan Capistrano and Escondido. “The way they do things is really quite different; it’s very much about love and the human spirit, which I think is missed a lot of the time in dementia care,” she says. “By reducing medications and focusing on a more holistic approach to care, residents can thrive, while maintaining their sense of self and dignity.”
Silverado is at the upper end of aged-care offerings in the US, costing about US$7000 per month. However, they’re quick to point out that many of the things they do can be replicated anywhere for free because “love, hugs, smiles and empathy don’t cost a thing.”
Maunder says up next, she’s got her eye on some great work being done in Ontario, Canada.