Son Chronicles His Mother's Decline Into Dementia In Powerful Photo Series That Speaks To The Helplessness Of Loved Ones — PHOTOS
In a heartbreaking series of photos titled “This is what Early Onset Dementia looks like,” 31-year old Jake Heath chronicles his mother’s slow decline into dementia. For a decade, Jake’s mother, Jacquie, has been suffering from Pick’s disease, a rare form of dementia with no known treatment. Jake explains on Reddit that before she had the disease, his mother was “a loving, generous woman.” Over a period of years, however, the disease has destroyed her ability to speak, recognize the people around her, or care for herself. The photos starkly illustrate her deteriorating health and mental capacity; in the last ones, she looks like a woman in her eighties, though she is only in her late fifties.
These images will hit home for a lot of people. I know from my own experience with my grandmother, who had dementia related to Parkinson’s disease, that watching someone you love slowly fade away—losing the ability to communicate, understand the world around her, or recognize her loved ones—is an incredibly painful and confusing experience, characterized (for me, at least) by warring feelings of wishing I could keep that person with me and wanting her prolonged suffering to end. Having a loved one die suddenly and unexpectedly is, of course, extremely traumatic, but losing someone by inches may be worse. As Jake Heath explains in a comment to a Redditor, his mother’s decline has been a process of sorrow after sorrow, writing,
Due to the way the disease works, it's been multiple grieving times, whenever there would be another step down in the illness. The most recent was about 6 weeks ago when she stopped being able to eat solid food. I suspect death is shortly around the corner.
Scroll down to see Jacquie’s painful transformation, with captions from Jake Heath (vingverm on Imgur). The last one is shattering.
This was taken in 2005 or so. At this point, Jacquie had Pick's Disease, but it had been misdiagnosed as menopause. She would be about 48 here.
On the beach, around 2010. Lots of Jacquie around. She can't remember too much hough. [sic]
2010 again. Riding on the back of dad's motorbike was one of her favourite things to do. She got quite terrified when the helmets were on, but once moving had a blast. This had to stop in 2011, when an on-bike paranoia attack nearly caused an accident.
Beach-time walks. Weight is falling off. Conversation is non-existent.
The birth of her first grandchild. She had been looking forward to being a grandmother for years.
Cuddles with her 14 month old grandson. He's very careful with her, knows she's special.
Fun times at the beach. She's 58 here. Her eyes aren't always open, and if they are, she's staring into the void.
Sometime's we'll move to her to beanbags on the floor.
She still smiles and laughs sometimes. I have no idea why. I really hope she dies soon.
That last line is harsh, but I think anyone who has watched a loved one suffer and fade for a period of years will get it. I do.
For more information about Jacquie, her family, and the effects of Pick’s disease, watch this video created by Jake Heath, titled “This Is Not Jacquie Anymore.” And send lots of love and good wishes to the Heath family.
Images: Getty Images; Imgur (9)