A year ago today my Mum died. Her struggle with the effects of vascular dementia came relatively peacefully to an end.
Dementia, I've realised since, is often misunderstood or something, in polite company, from which to shy away. In the media it is Alzheimer that's generally discussed. Many of our ideas of what it is like to suffer and provide care are formed by TV Dramas. A Derek Jacobi type actor usually depicts a character that starts to forget his keys, then his way home, and, in the third act, he heartbreakingly can't remeber his wife of 40 years.
My experience of my Mum's vascular dementia was not like this. Loss of mobility, emergency visits to A&E and the corrosion of a personality is what I witnessed. Just as my youngest son was developing new skills and abilities week by week, the reverse was the case with my Mother. Trips to the local shops and to my home stopped; walking independently, then with the aid of a frame and even standing unsupported were all, one after the other, consigned to the past. Her facial features changed, her voice and vocabulary became clipped; taking the person I knew further and further away in stark, irreversible stages. I'm grateful that my immediate family and I were always remembered, but similarly with Alzheimer sufferers, memories of recent and past times were lost forever.
I started to regularly photograph her at that time, and although I knew others wouldn't want to see the images, they helped me to understand her condition and its effects. Sometimes I could barely see the real her through her condition, other times it receded to the extent I could see and speak to her in some sense of normality. I appreciate people may not wish to remember such times, let alone photograph them, but for me it has been an important part of understanding her dementia; separating it from her as a person and putting her final days in context with the happier times of her life.
More information can be found at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vascular-dementia/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Donations to help improve the life of sufferers at my Mum's Care Home can be gifted to: https://www.justgiving.com/Broadeningchoices-Forolderpeople