2015 - 2016
Nebraska, United States
Eloise Hill sits on a piano bench, rhythmically moving with the music echoing from her fingers into the halls of a memory care facility in Lincoln, Nebraska. She was a piano teacher all of her adult life. The music is a part of her soul. She remembers every note.
Then, the music stops.
She looks to Ward, her husband, as he sits next to her. Married for over 68 years, both Eloise and Ward have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Which song should be next?” she asks her husband.
Ward’s suggests that she plays, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”— one of their favorites. Eloise smiles and turns toward the piano again. It is the exact song she had played minutes before. Ward subtly smiles and looks into the distance, remembering another time.
With the help of the Alzheimer’s Association Nebraska Chapter, I documented the daily life of The Hills while they resided in memory care facility. With inspiration stemming from my own grandmother’s diagnosis, the goal was to understand a disease that transformed a woman I love into someone who now rarely recognizes me.
For eight months, my camera served as the shield separating me from the harsh reality of witnessing an individual slowly declining in front of my eyes. It also served as my key to understanding how one can shine through their diagnosis.
Alzheimer’s disease does not represent the soul of these men and women. Once diagnosed, new realities emerge for these individuals, their caretakers and loved ones. I have learned that Alzheimer’s is a harrowing disease— but there are times of both sorrow and solace.