Age is a Privilege, unless we forget!

Ageing is a privilege however Dementia is really taking its toll on the elderly. It is alarmingly affecting many people and at a faster rate than ever. The consequences are huge, not only for the person with the illness but for the caregivers and the cost of getting their loved one into a home.

Now, although there is information out there, it is not straight forward. No one knows timelines, the rate the subject will be affected, how and there is no cure. There are a lot of unknowns and this is tragic for everyone.

Specific care homes can be up to £8000 a month, and are laid out in a way that supports the dementia - ie for hallucinations, if they see shadows on the ground to the patient they may think this is hole in the ground so a dementia care home will illuminate them.

Caregivers are resorting on sending loved ones to care homes in Thailand so they get 24 hour care and what they need to survive the final years of their live. Meaning that family only visit once a year or spend holidays there. And that is for the lucky ones.

This disease is out of control and bringing awareness about it is vital.

"Age is a privilege, unless you forget!" is a project, that I have collaborated with my father and family. My dad has dementia since 2012 and now is in the later stages of the illness. He entered a care home this year after many years of searching for the right place.

This is one of the conversations I am having with this project.

The expense of care homes, where to put someone with Dementia and in a proper home specific for Dementia they put protocol in place to deal with the symptoms. For example hallucinations, a dementia patient might see a shadow as a hole and have fear they would fall down that hole so a Dementia home would make sure there are no shadows cast on the floor. Who knew!

Another conversation is relationship. Dad was an Irishman, proud and full of feelings but never knew how to express them. he was a workaholic and really I didn't know him growing up which is something I personally battle with. Through this process, I "met Dad" through finding his archive of transparency slides from the 60's 70's, 80's that I never really knew existed. There I was battling in photography and he never shared his eye of photography. When I found them, I was amazed because not only does he have such interesting images of the landscape and portrait of Ireland but we have the same composition and type of image. As an educator, I know what it is to give an assignment to students and no two students come back with the same image. I was blown away to find - we did. This was such a cathartic experience for me.

I took his catalogue of images of thousands and narrowed them down. Before lockdown, I would visit Ireland and ask both Mum (no dementia) and Dad with dementia to comment in writing about the image. This was really powerful to me, for one to cherish his writing. His hand touching the paper, like Mum's to see how his brain was slowly shrivelling in front of my eyes. The connections and memory was fading fast and the comments were far between what Mum would write. For example, their wedding day. Mum recalled the day and how she thought she would be late and the fear of this. Dad just recognised "it must have been a nice day". Heartbreaking really.

My response is what I did to the images after printing them out. In my process, I am very much about making one off's. One off prints and manipulating the image so never will two images be the same. There is a quirk. Just like my relationship with my parents especially dad.

I use stickers, I cut, I punch holes, or paint on the images. These all convey different emotional states and reactions to Dad's illness and the relationship together.

The sticker represents the forgetting and the colour represents the amount he forgets. It could also be drawing attention to minor details and other parts of the image or in fact highlighting EXACTLY the memory and what this must be like. I can't imagine what it would be like to not recognise your own children, your own home and think your daughter is your sister or something of the sort. How troubling.

"Age us a privilege, unless you forget", is a humorous title as it is a privilege to age these days but also in a way, I want to look at the positive sides to the illness. I am grieving his death before he dies. I am looking him in the eye and saying goodbye.

He also has a great fear of death and this relieves him of that. That gives me peace and we have had a relationship since he got this illness as he softened with it. He is a gentleman.

I would absolutely be grateful to be granted this Grant so that I could bring an exhibition in hospitals or a care home to fruition. To give more awareness to Dementia. I got the idea from

This allows discussion and awareness to Dementia. I would like to get the Alzheimers Society involved. I have been in touch with them.

I would like to do two things with the exhibition. To have an exhibition that is evolving so everyday an image is removed and in the end there are no images left on the wall which is symbolic to what life is like with Dementia and memory loss.

I would like to have a sculpture of Dad's head and in an orange which is shrinking in size- also representing the brain and how it is shrivelling.

I have agreed but need to pay for curator Katrin Bauer to write a piece for this. She was the curator Chosen Family – Less Alone Together

exhibition (assistant curator) and publication (editorial lead)

Fotomuseum Winterthur (CH)

I would like to pay for an essay from dad's psychiatrist to administrated drugs who is the top man in Ireland and also an essay from the care home. We are lucky he got into one of the best ones in Ireland but that was after many years on the waiting list and fighting for a place, needless to say the cost.

I have interest from Perimeter books in Australia to possibly produce a book with them. I spoke with Justine and with this Grant would really help this come a reality.

© Debbie Castro - The family we never knew

The family we never knew

© Debbie Castro - Mother/wife


© Debbie Castro - Home


© Debbie Castro - The Monkey Tree

The Monkey Tree

© Debbie Castro - The Kids

The Kids

© Debbie Castro - Uncle Bert and fingerprint

Uncle Bert and fingerprint

© Debbie Castro - Grandad in hospital

Grandad in hospital

© Debbie Castro - Family day out

Family day out

© Debbie Castro - The honeymoon

The honeymoon

© Debbie Castro - What age will I die?

What age will I die?

© Debbie Castro - The yard

The yard

© Debbie Castro - Happy 21st

Happy 21st

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