New Documentary Shows Elderly Mom Moving Disabled Daughter to Care Facility

Mimi Thornton has been caring for her daughter Dona, who has an intellectual disability, by herself since her husband passed away in 1968. Thornton, now 92, and Dona, now 64, lived together in Dallas for nearly 50 years, until Thornton was forced to make the difficult decision to move Dona into an assisted living facility. That transition is the focus of the new PBS documentary, “Mimi and Dona,” which was produced and directed by Mimi’s granddaughter, filmmaker Sophie Sartain.

In the film’s latest clip, both Mimi and Dona appear inconsolable on the day they’re separated, but they proceed with the move upon their family’s insistence.

“Oh, this is hard,” an emotional Thornton tells one relative immediately after saying goodbye to her daughter. “I don’t think I can take it.” As soon as she realizes her mother is about to drive away, an equally upset Dona is shown getting physically aggressive with one of her new caretakers.

After her family members try to explain that moving Dona into a facility is in everyone’s best interest, Thornton becomes even more distraught. “I don’t want to,” she protests. “You’re all just making it harder on me. You don’t know how hard this is… I never dreamed I’d be going through this.”

While the plan is for Dona to remain in the assisted living facility, it hasn’t been revealed whether this is the final decision. In a plot synopsis on the PBS website, the network wrote, “Ultimately, family bonds run deep and true, even when faced with the greatest challenge yet.”

An estimated 4.6 million Americans have an intellectual or developmental disability, according to The Arc, and more than 860,000 caregivers of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities are over the age of 60 in the U.S. The Arc predicts this number will “grow substantially with the aging of the baby boom generation” — plus individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities are living longer thanks to advancements in medicine and care.

“Mimi and Dona” premieres on PBS’ Independent Lens Monday, Nov. 23 at 10/9c.

If you are a parent or family member of someone with a developmental disability seeking resources for future planning, visit The Arc’s website for more information.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Intellectual Disability

My Daughter Isn't the Only One Getting a 'Special' Education

The other day I had my annual parent/teacher conference for my 13-year-old daughter. Each and every time I visit Lizzy’s school, I’m assaulted with a range of emotions, from gratitude and respect for the school’s teachers and staff to dread and sadness as I get buzzed through the heavy doors and enter the lobby. I [...]

How a Fire Station in Michigan Became Home to a Man Who Doesn't Fight Fires

Every day, an honored guest sits at the dinner table in Fire Station One in Lansing, Mich. He’s not a firefighter, but he’s friends with the entire team. His name is Tony Tumminello, and dinner wouldn’t be the same without him. Tumminello, who has an intellectual disability, has been coming to the fire station since [...]

8-Year-Old Makes Sure Brother With Disabilities Completes Triathlon

Via Facebook / Lucas House As if completing a mini-triathlon at the age of 8 wasn’t impressive enough, this young man did it all while bringing his 6-year-old brother, who is unable to walk or talk, along for the ride. Lucas Aldrich was born with a rare neurological condition known as lissencephaly, which leaves him [...]

Katy Perry’s Beautiful New Video Aims to End a Stigma

When UNICEF and its ambassador, pop singer Katy Perry, brought together people, both HIV positive and HIV negative, something beautiful was shared: acceptance. The video below, set to Perry’s single, “Unconditionally,” aims to end the negative stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and instead #ShowYourLove. This is what it means to be positive. Live Mighty. Like us on Facebook.