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COFFEE PLEASE: Photographing Dementia

For the photography class I am taking, our next project is designed to tell a story. We have to take several images and choose a handful to tell a sequential story. I’m choosing to tell the story of Dementia.

My grandpa was diagnosed with Dementia a few years ago and the disease had taken its toll on him and our family. I have seen first-hand what it is like to slowly lose your mind.

Now my grandpa is starting to forget entirely.

At first it was simple things—he would confuse the television remote for the telephone, or forget to pick something up at the grocery store. This past year has been the worst for this unforgiving disease.

He thinks the water is shut off when it’s working fine. There were a few months where he thought people were breaking into the house and stealing random items. Every morning he would wake up and forget where he put something and think it had been stolen. This type of paranoia is common in people who have Dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Now, my grandpa is starting to forget entirely. He is disoriented as to what year it is; sometimes he’s stuck in the mid-1990s and other times it’s the 1940s and the cost of a car is only a few hundred dollars. He forgot who my boyfriend was and besides pancakes and coffee, he can’t remember what foods he likes to eat.

With this project, I wanted to capture just how Dementia impacts the brain. I wanted to photograph my grandpa in his everyday life, which isn’t an easy task because he doesn’t understand why I keep taking pictures of him.

Each image I took I tried to display what it is like to lose control of your own thoughts and not even know it is happening.

Growing up there was nothing my grandpa couldn’t do and now there are few activities he still can do. With each photograph, I can see his confusion and how hard it is for him to remember to get his coat before leaving the house or tie his own shoes.

—Morgan Mackey

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