Life-affirming and fascinating, It Is Not Over Yet transports the viewer to Dagmarsminde, a small long-term care facility in Denmark. Led by health practitioner May Bjerre Eiby, Dagmarsminde is committed to caring for their elderly residents and dementia patients by shifting their focus from medicine to the more controversial philosophy of ‘care treatment’. Inspired by Florence Nightingale’s methods from 150 years ago, Eiby and her team seek to honour their patients with high doses of hugs, conversation, affection and, of course, cake. In doing so, they not only enhance the quality of life of their residents but they also bring healing and hope to those who may feel abandoned.
Directed by Louise Detlefson, It Is Not Over Yet is a poignant journey into the world of health care and the power of compassion. Focusing her lens solely on the holistic community of Dagmarsminde, Detlefson has found something truly unique and powerful within this facility. As they (seemingly) give Detlefson full access to their conversations and treatments, the amazing results that Eiby and her team produce are nothing short of remarkable. At Dagmarsminde, every patient is treated with such respect and love that one cannot help but be in awe at what’s taking place.
Though Eiby’s methods often differ from ‘traditional practice’, one can’t argue with results. With an emphasis on human contact, touch and communal living, the ministry at Dagmarsminde recognizes the healing that the human body can experience when it feels safe and loved. Patients who have been left virtually catatonic due to over-medication begin to regain their faculties. Those who have been socially isolated start to come out of their shells and participate in community together. Within Dagmarsminde, dignity takes priority and lives are being changed as a result.
In short, Dagmarsminde may seem like a place where people go to die. In reality, it is a home that celebrates life.
Where Detlefson’s story becomes particularly emotional (and likely somewhat controversial) lies in the facility’s philosophy on how to care for residents who are near death. As a patient’s health begins to fade and death becomes an oncoming reality, Eiby allows them to be supported along the last phase of their journey. Rather than attempt to keep them alive through drugs or force-feeding, Eiby instead encourages the team to allow their residents to ‘transition’ peacefully as part of the natural process of life and death. For many, this practice may seem counter-intuitive (or even foreign) when held up against more traditional medical practices. (In fact, in one riveting scene, Eiby debates the practice amongst her own staff who may or may not agree with this exercise.) However, even in these moments, their gentle massage and peaceful words carry an inherent sense of beauty that Detlefson is allowed to catch on camera.
Honestly, as shocking as it may seem, this may be the most tender death ever caught on camera.
With It Is Not Over Yet, Detlefson sends a powerful message. Though modern practice favours medication to treat dementia amongst patients, there truly is nothing greater than love to bring them hope. Led by Eiby, Darmarsminde continues to remind their residents that, though they may be nearing the end of their journey, they still matter. In this place, they know that they are safe and celebrated.
For these patients, life is truly not over yet.
To hear our conversation with director Louise Detlefson and health practitioner May Bjerre Eiby, click here.
It Is Not Over Yet is now playing at HotDocs ‘21.