Norm is an exuberant and challenging documentary about love, family and survival. Norman Llewellyn was born with Down’s syndrome in 1949, in an era that assumed children like him would be sent away to institutions and that their life expectancy may not exceed fifteen years. Though he spent much of his childhood with his family, he was ultimately put into foster-care by his parents. His sister Karen, seven at the time, promised from her heart that she would get him back some day. Adopted herself, she spent most of her life feeling that she had usurped Norm’s place in the family.
Karen never forgot the promise that she made to Norm as a little girl and, sixteen years ago, she did get him back. Today Norm lives with Karen and her partner Claudia on Todd’s Island near Halifax in Nova Scotia. He is loved and well known in his community and has many friends of all ages. Diabetes and a mild heart condition require constant attention and, like many adults living with Down’s syndrome, Norm is now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Once again his 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 home anymore?
Norm’s parents, now in their eighties, are a powerful addition to this documentary. They speak openly about the realities of the past and the decision they made. It was a time when there were no services or support for the mentally challenged. The support team that is brought together to help Norm cope with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease gives the viewer insight into the current challenges that are facing a person with Down’s syndrome but also hope about what is available to help them. Filmed with extraordinary access over a four-year period, the story of this brother and sister offers a powerful reminder of the depths of sibling love and the challenges faced by many families living with the often harsh realities of aging.
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