If you're wondering what to watch in the heinous wasteland that is television right now, may I suggest a lovely documentary that won the Rex Tasker Documentary Award at the Atlantic Film Festival this year. Tonight on CBC's The Lens.
Directed by Kent Nason and Teresa MacInnes, Norm is described as a love story: "'I’ll get you back someday Norman, I’ll get you back.' That cry from the heart of seven- year-old Karen Llewellyn, is the promise she made to her mentally challenged older brother Norman forty-five years ago. He was about to be sent away from his family home and enter into private foster care. Norman was born in 1949 with Down syndrome. He was not expected to live past 15 years of age and many like him were often institutionalized. Norm was fortunate, he spent much of his childhood with his family in Fredericton, New Brunswick, but, at the age of fourteen he was sent into foster care. Norm’s parents, now in their eighties, provide powerful moments in this documentary. They speak openly about the decisions they made and the realities of, “those days,” a time when there were few services or support for the mentally challenged and their families. Norm’s younger sister, Karen, was adopted as a baby. She grew up with Norm, and he became, “her best friend.” Devastated when Norm had to leave, she spent most of her life feeling that it was because of her that Norman had to leave the family home.
Sixteen years ago Karen did get him back; Norman came to live with Karen and her partner Claudette Levy on Todd’s Island near Halifax in Nova Scotia. It is evident in the documentary that he is loved and well known in his community and has many friends of all ages. Today, Norm struggles with the harsh affects of severe diabetes, a mild heart condition also requires constant attention, but Norm has remarkable caregivers. Barb Wyman stays with Norm at home while Karen and Claudie are at work, he is her, “Little buddy.” Their daily routine provides us with moments that are both humorous and often inspiring.
However, the story turns when Norm, like many aging adults living with Down syndrome, begins experiencing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. He is fortunate to have an inspired and inspiring physician, psychiatrist, Dr. Mary Tomlinson of the Nova Scotia Hospital. She provides vital support to Karen and Claudia as they struggle with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Once again Norm’s sister Karen is faced with one of life’s most difficult decisions, a decision her adopted parents had to deal with many years ago, 'What if she can’t keep him at home anymore?'"