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.
It was over five years ago, that 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.
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 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 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, until Dad’s health ultimately deteriorated.
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. I want to raise awareness of dementia for the patient but also the impact on their families and loved ones.”
I was overwhelmed by the press attention around the world, including an interview on Sky News and BBC Radio Berkshire, and both The Daily Mail and the BBC online magazine carrying Ronnie’s story.
And now in association with the Alzheimer’s Organisation and the Andipa Gallery in London’s Knightsbridge, we are have a month long exhibition to celebrate Ronnie’s life and raise awareness during World Alzheimer’s month in September. The exhibition covers Dad at home, his treatment at the local hospital and being cared for in the care home. It has moments of happiness and love, as well as recording the pain and heartache. It’s also a thank you to my mum for her strength and love and to dad’s doctors and carers whose support we are so grateful for.
BBC On Line Article – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-32722654
Daily Mail Article – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3119923/
Huffington Post – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/15/dementia-photos
The Daily Mirror – http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/my-dads-last-moments-dementia
The Chrissy B Show – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEwHDJQ2sLs
Neale James – https://vimeo.com/127195559
Mark Seymour – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3h2N_i6-W-o