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Family
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North America 
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dementia, aging, alzheimer's, U.S., memory 
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“My Grandfather’s Keeper” documents the sacrifices of senior spouses unprepared for care taking. My grandmother’s experience provides an account of how a wife became a nurse.
Monica Jorge

2017 — student winner

My Grandmother’s story of caring for his Alzheimer’s and Dementia

According to the Alzheimer's Association, in 2015 more than 15 million caregivers provided unpaid assistance. One third of these caregivers were women age 65 or older. “My Grandfather’s Keeper” documents the psychological toll taken on family members who were not prepared for this fate - like elderly wives. Through my grandmother’s experience caring for her husband and his Alzheimer’s and dementia, this story is an intimate account of how a wife becomes a nurse and the reality of growing old as her partner of 57 years forgets who she is.

Using still photographs, Polaroids, archived family photos, and journal entries, this project will allow the viewer a glimpse into my grandmother’s day-to-day experience during the progression of her husband’s disease. “My Grandfather’s Keeper” represents a collaborative effort between myself and my grandparents and will include their own photographs and journal entries. The story will communicate the daily stress of caretaking and the sacrifice it demands. This will be paired with an intimate personal viewpoint of the subjects through their own vision and voice.

“My Grandfather’s Keeper” will be published as a book, a short multimedia film using audio from Luisa and Ramiro Durao intended for distribution, and an online interactive piece where extended family and friends will be able to share responses. The Alzheimer's Association reports that 60% of caregivers are under high or very high stress, 40% suffer from depression, and 74% report they are concerned about maintaining their own health since becoming a caregiver. The goal is to convey the emotional impact caretakers endure in their own senior age.

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Ramiro Durao looks out to his backyard at his home in Newington, Connecticut, January 29, 2017. He often wants to do yard work like he used to be capable of doing so he frequently stands in the windows looking outside now that he is locked in the house. His current state of health makes outdoor activity impossible under his wife's supervision. Monica Jorge/Alexia Foundation
Maria Durao shaves Ramiro Durao's face in the morning in the bathroom of their home in Newington, Connecticut, January 29, 2017. Monica Jorge/Alexia Foundation
Maria Durao prepares her husband's medication in the morning in the kitchen of their home in Newington, Connecticut, January 29, 2017. Monica Jorge/Alexia Foundation
Ramiro Durao in a hospital bed while he is treated and monitored for Colitis following hours of intense stomach pain, March 28, 2017. Monica Jorge/Alexia Foundation
Maria Durao keeps multiple locks on all doors to protect Ramiro from trying to leave the Durao home in Newington, Connecticut, February 18, 2017. He often wants to do yard work like he used to be capable of doing so he frequently stands in the windows looking outside now that he is locked in the house. His current state of health makes outdoor activity impossible under his wife's supervision. Monica Jorge/Alexia Foundation
Ramiro Durao stands in the shower in the bathroom of his home in Newington, Connecticut, waiting for his wife to help him, January 29, 2017. Monica Jorge/Alexia Foundation
Ramiro and Maria Durao wait for more family to arrive at the funeral for Ramiro's brother, Manny, in West Hartford, Connecticut, March 24, 2017. Monica Jorge/Alexia Foundation
A typical scene of Maria helping her husband Ramiro eat in the kitchen of the Durao home in Newington, Connecticut, January 29, 2017. Monica Jorge/Alexia Foundation
A cross hangs on the wall in Ramiro Durao's private bedroom in their home in Newington, Connecticut, February 19, 2017. Monica Jorge/Alexia Foundation
Ramiro does laps to excercise back and forth from his private bedroom at the end of the hall to his reclining armchair in the living room of their home in Newington, Connecticut, January 29, 2017. Monica Jorge/Alexia Foundation