And Thou Shalt Honor
PBS (check local listings)
Premieres October 9

PBS is at its best when producing documentaries such as And Thou Shalt Honor, a study of how families cope when loved ones can no longer look after their own health.

The film, which premiered last night, begins with its most heroic figures: those who provide in-home care, often at great cost. Jerry Cohen of Los Angeles plows through more than half of his $110,000 in savings while caring for his wife, Harriet. An attorney tells Cohen that he could begin collecting Medicare if he moved his wife to a nursing home, but Cohen soldiers on without apparent bitterness or self-pity.

Mary Ann Nation of Franklin, Ohio, looks after her husband, Harlan, who has a rare brain virus. Reflecting on her marital vows of loving her husband in sickness and in health, she says, "You don't rewrite that. It's perfect the way it is."

In Atlanta, three siblings in the Boykin family take turns looking after their mother, Mattie, in four-month stints. One of the siblings, Gladys, works as a manager at a Kentucky Fried Chicken, so Mattie Boykin spends untold hours sitting in the KFC dining room—sometimes alone, sometimes with her daughter keeping her company. Hearing Gladys and her brother speak of their mother, however, their fierce loyalty to her is clear, as is their determination to do the best they can with they tools they have.

The two-hour And Thou Shalt Honor shows a remarkable compassion for all of its subjects, including those baby boomers who commit their parents to nursing homes for reasons that remain somewhat unclear. Sal Perrotta, once a famous journalist in Los Angeles, has to enter a home without his beloved dog when he can no longer care for himself.

"I lost my dog," he says, ...

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