When Ronnie Seymour was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, his son Mark, a professional photographer, decided to chronicle his dad’s dementia journey in the way he knew best…by taking photographs. Here, Mark shares a few of his powerful and poignant images.
Home is where it begins
My dad was an amazing man. I know all sons would say that but Ronnie Seymour was and is my hero. He taught me so much in the way he raised me and my brother Colin – his work ethic, his skills around the house, but most importantly as a man devoted to his wife and family.
Memories are made of this
Five years ago we received the diagnosis that Dad had dementia. Having watched his mother go through it he was already aware of the challenges the illness brings, 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 was determined to look after Dad in their home, no matter what. Since he retired at 65 they’d spent every moment together and she took her wedding vows very seriously. She was his sweetheart; he was her soulmate.
The simplest things become difficult
Dad’s memory deteriorated, he’d forget the names of people he knew…
…But he and Mum still shared happy moments together.
Goodbyes are hard
Unfortunately, in April 2014 Dad’s health needs became overwhelming and, very reluctantly, Mum had to accept help from a local care home; Oak House. I will never be able to forget Mum’s pain and tears as we walked out of the home on that first day.
Home away from home
The home was great, they looked after him beautifully and Mum visited continually, holding his hand and making sure he knew he was loved and cherished.
We made Dad’s room as comfortable as possible. On the wall, we put a picture of his beloved motorbike – a Vincent Black Shadow – which he’d ridden in the 1960s, to trigger memories. Even when he couldn’t remember people’s names, he was able to talk about the bike. He pointed out to nurses where the crank shaft was and how different bits worked.
A harmonica for Ronnie
We also took in one of his harmonicas. Playing a harmonica was something he’d always done. He wasn’t professional but he was proficient. If someone put the harmonica in his hands, he was still able to play a tune, especially God Save the Queen. Mum and Dad always loved music and even when Dad was fading in other respects, we could still see glimpses of him when he played the harmonica.
Always there for him
Dad’s health went downhill rapidly until he could no longer do anything for himself. In March 2015, aged 82, he passed away in bed at the home, having kissed Mum goodnight.
Remembering him as he was
Photography was my way of coping with Dad’s illness, it allowed me to spend time with him and to feel I was doing something. It was a difficult and painful project but something I felt compelled to do. Me and my family are happy for people to see these photos, we hope they can help raise awareness of what dementia really does to a person and their family.