illustration of Lois Bowers

The past couple of weeks have brought news of two upcoming documentaries that promise to shine a spotlight on senior living, warts and all.

One, “Caregiving,” will focus on professional and family caregivers “as the United States’ long-term care system threatens to tip into crisis,” according to public media station WETA. The two-hour film will debut on PBS in spring 2025.

No doubt the project will draw attention because one of the executive producers is Bradley Cooper, who was a caregiver to his late father when he had lung cancer. “That was a wake-up call for me, one that really opened my eyes to the world of caregiving,” he said in promotional materials for the project.

WETA says that the documentary “will examine caregiving from multiple perspectives: the creation and evolution of the care system; the social dynamics that shape our approach to caregiving today and the future possibilities; the lives of caregivers and their relationships with those in their care; the interpersonal and economic pressures faced by caregivers; and the broader societal context in which caregiving operates on the margins, yet affects everyone.”

Ai-jen Poo, president of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and director of Caring Across Generations, is involved, and promotional materials note that the median annual pay for a professional caregiver is less than $24,000 and that almost half of professional caregivers rely on public assistance. So the view presented of long-term care employers may not always be flattering.

But the project will be much more than simply a film. It’ll be one part of a “national outreach, engagement, education and digital campaign to help audiences better understand the issues caregivers face and build awareness for programs available in their communities,” according to WETA. This campaign could present an opportunity for providers to share their stories.

Partners on the project include the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging, Grantmakers In Aging, the Global Coalition on Aging and the National Alliance for Caregiving. Support comes from Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, the Evelyn Y. Davis Foundation, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation,, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the John A. Hartford Foundation. 

You can watch a promotional video about the effort below.

A disturbing story 

Another project premieres sooner — tomorrow, in fact (Tuesday, May 14) — on Paramount+. Whereas “Caregiving” includes someone famous, “Pillowcase Murders” centers on someone infamous, at least to the readers of McKnight’s Senior Living.

The three-part docuseries is about the actions of convicted killer Billy Chemirmir, who was sentenced for two murders and suspected in the deaths of more than two dozen older adults in Texas, most of whom were women residents of senior living communities. Chemirmir was murdered in prison in September 2023.

The project’s trailer, below, makes it clear that senior living providers will be a focus of the series, too, with one interviewee saying that Chemirmir’s victims “were victims of the independent living industry” as well, and another saying, “They covered it up.”

The events of the cases sparked lawsuits and efforts to regulate the industry. The series’ airing will introduce Chemirmir’s deeds to a wider group and may provide another opportunity for the senior living industry to share its story.

Lois A. Bowers is the editor of McKnight’s Senior Living. Read her other columns here. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) at Lois_Bowers.