New book attempts to change the perception of Alzheimer’s

by | Apr 27, 2012

From: The New York Times

The prevailing view of people with Alzheimer’s is often a depressing one: the patient slumped in a chair or parked in front of a television set. But a new book and photo exhibition this month in New York show another side of the disease, one in which people with dementia can still be engaged, lead active lives and experience love and joy.

The book, “Love, Loss and Laughter: Seeing Alzheimer’s Differently,” was written by Cathy Greenblat, a professor emerita of sociology at Rutgers University who found a second career as a photographer. The exhibition has toured the world and is currently on display at the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University in Manhattan.

“I wanted to show what many people don’t know about Alzheimer’s,” Ms. Greenblat said, “that there are ways we can take care of people that build on their remaining capacities instead of just protecting them from danger.”

In one of the many vivid photographs in her book, Ms. Greenblat shows an elderly Houston woman named Luleene, a former musician who played the organ, sang and loved animals, with her husband, Joe. To help her feel connected to her past, the hospice that assists her includes sessions with a music therapist in her weekly program as well as visits with pets.

In India, a former math teacher, now with dementia, is shown dutifully scribbling numbers on a blackboard purchased by the staff at her day care center to help her experience old pleasures. Each line, perhaps inscrutable to the staff, is nonetheless a victory for the former teacher.

“These photos are meant to challenge the way we think about Alzheimer’s,” said Ms. Greenblat, whose project was inspired in part by personal experience. Both of her maternal grandparents developed Alzheimer’s in their later years, as did her mother. “People look at some of these photos and say, ‘Oh, this person can’t have Alzheimer’s.’ But they don’t realize that they have a range of emotions. People don’t imagine that someone with Alzheimer’s can be smiling or happy and having a good time.”

Get in touch