AlzheimersDementia…My Fathers Story

I have always taken photographs of mum and dad and my children, it’s just an everyday occurrence that they know I will have my camera to hand. So what started off as pictures of mum and dad going about their daily lives, became a way of documenting Dad’s story, a difficult and painful project but something I felt compelled to do, bringing meaning not just to us as a family but so I could take something positive from this situation and use it to help raise the awareness of others of what dementia does to a person and their family.

5 years ago we received the diagnosis that Dad was suffering with dementia. We had no real idea at that point the journey we were going to go on as a family.Looking back, some of the early signs we just laughed off as Dad being his usual cheeky funny self, not aware that these were clueless as to how things would develop.

Dad at Home with a picture of his Vincent Black Shadow
Dad at Home with a picture of his Vincent Black Shadow

My dad was an amazing man, I know all sons would say that, but Ronnie Seymour was and is my hero. Dad taught me so much in the way he raised me and my brother Colin, his work ethic, his skills around the house making and building everything from the cupboards to the bricks in the garden wall. But most importantly as a man devoted to his wife and family.

Ronnie was a real character, and even as the Dementia stole many aspects of the man we knew and loved away from us right to the end everyone would comment on the twinkle in his eye! Oh the stories I could share with you, from his pride and joy motorbike, a Vincent Black Shadow, to his garage filled with every type of nail and screw possible just waiting for that next project, the hand built canoe strapped to his bike which as lads we were embarrassed to walk with him, to his DIY roller-skates he made so he could go out with his grandchildren, yes it’s all true, and so much more!

Dad, Ronnie Seymour
Dad, Ronnie Seymour

Dad was aware of the challenges of the illness having watched his mum go through the same illness before her death, but he had the passion of a fighter and read voraciously looking for ways to delay its affects; eating, exercising and keeping his brain as active as possible.

Mum and Dad took their wedding vows and commitment to be there in sickness and in heath to the end very seriously and mum was determined to look after dad in their home no matter what. Unfortunately in April 2014 Dad’s health and difficulties associated with Dementia became overwhelming and taking the advice of healthcare professionals and the family mum reluctantly accepted the help from a local care home, Oak House. I will never be able to forget the pain and tears this caused for mum as we walked out the home on that first day.

Mum leaving the home
Mum leaving the home

Mum and Dad’s love story didn’t end there, as she promised her sweetheart and soul mate she visited him continually helping take care of his every need, holding his hand and making sure he knew he was loved and cherished.

Unfortunately Dad’s health deteriorated and in less than a year Dad passed in him bed at the home having mum kissed him goodnight.

The exhibition covers Dad at home, in hospital and the care home. It celebrates his life as much as it recognises the pain and heartache. It’s a thank you to my mum for her strength and love and to dad’s doctor and carers whose support we are so grateful for.

Dad just weeks before he left us all
Dad just weeks before he left us all

 

Feburary 2014
Feburary 2014

In the last year I have given several talks based on the photographs for this exhibition and other aspects of my documentary work, and the feedback has been phenomenal. Dad’s pictures and the story there within produces a powerful connection with people touching their hearts, with so many people knowing a friend or family member with a similar story to tell.

My profession is a photographer and my passion is photography, but this project more than any other is one that I share from my heart and is a project of love that I am committed to ensuring this exhibition is a success.

Thank you to all those who have worked with me in the initial stages of this project and their words of compassion and support. Thank you to those of you who read this and are prepared to back this project, however small or big your contribution, know that is it appreciated and I believe this exhibition with your help will make a difference.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1934957497/dementiamy-fathers-story-remember-me

Neil James, a friend, fellow photographer and film maker approached me about recording mum and dad’s story. As Neil interviewed Mum it was incredible for me to hear her stories of how they met and their early married life

There are 850,000 people in the UK with dementia. Nearly a quarter of a million people will develop the condition in the next year. It’s one of the main causes of disability in later life, yet still there is no cure for what many people consider an ‘unfashionable disease.’

In 2011 professional photographer Mark Seymour started to document his father Ronnie’s battle with the disease. This film shows a little of that body of work; A Portrait of Ronnie.

Photography copyright and courtesy Mark Seymour

Film and narration, Neale James

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A portrait of Ronnie from Neale James on Vimeo.

 

Images by Mark Seymour.. A slide show of photographs without words…