Alzheimer’s and Caregiving
My Mother and Father have been subjects of my image making since the first time I picked up a camera as a child. When I began to notice that they were having difficulty with their mental capacity, it didn’t occur to me to discontinue photographing them. I now have a substantial, twelve year long, visual record of what it looks like when aging parents slowly descend into Alzheimer’s disease. I also kept rough journals outlining events and the feelings involved with dealing with them. My experience taught me that I was not prepared for what was ahead of me, neither legally nor emotionally. What does one do when siblings and family are not willing to assist in caregiving efforts? How does one handle a father that has become belligerent and aggressive, or a mother that becomes totally dependent on their child to make every decision for her? How do these things effect my image making as these relationships change? Can the anger, frustration, and fear be found in my images.
Both parents have passed now, and during my years as a caregiver, I have developed relationships with other people that were having the same experience within their family. My wife and I became involved in the process of caregiving on several levels. For one, we are still taking care of her ninety-four-year-old mother. We help with an Alzheimer’s respite group by attending two days a week to interact with the people who come, as well as to provide art projects. We attend an Alzheimer’s support group twice a month, where we share our concerns and experience with other people that are having similar difficulties. My plan is to continue to investigate what this experience looks like, on a personal level, for other victims of dementia and their caregivers. Some of the people involved in these groups have expressed a willingness to participate in this project by allowing me to bring my camera into their lives, and the life of their dementia victim. While I am making these new images, I will continue to edit the large body of images that I made while caring for my parents. I am also writing about those years in terms of my experience as a caregiver, as well as an image maker.