I Still Do

April 10, 2010

Mona Lisa and Alzheimer’s

A few days ago I was at the Louvre, looking at some of the world’s most gorgeous art.  The Museum’s  magnificent collection includes a number of beautiful paintings by Leonardo da Vinci that are hung on a wall close the room where the Mona Lisa is displayed.   It was a pleasure spending time with the other da Vinci’s—I could stand in front of them for as long as I wished and get as close as I wished without disturbing others or being disturbed by them; mostly because the others weren’t there.  They were in the adjacent room where the small Mona Lisa is hung behind bulletproof glass and fifteen or so feet beyond where the closest viewers are allowed to stand.  Eventually I walked into the room where the celebrity painting holds court to millions of viewers each year—roughly half of whom were there when I was. Each of them was pushing, shoving, clawing his way to the front of the crowd—digital cameras held high and flashing their forbidden bulbs.  The crowd looked like paparazzi—I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear people shouting “Look this way, Mona.” 

One of the things Alzheimer’s reinforces is the value of living in the moment, of experiencing what’s in front of us.  Maybe some of the people in front of the famous painting were experiencing the moment they wanted to experience—maybe their pleasure came from taking a snapshot, plugging their readers into their computer, and experiencing Mona Lisa several times removed.  I know that many museums, including MoMA, are now working with Alzheimer’s patients because they believe that looking at art soothes AD sufferers (and their caregivers).  I like to think that people with Alzheimer’s really look at a work of art when it’s in front of them.

April 3, 2010

Alzheimer’s touches us so deeply

My daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren came with me to London for the opening reception of my photography exhibition at the Cork Street Gallery.  We’re continuing to travel together—taking advantage of being in Europe and my grandchildrens’ spring break from school.  We’ve been on the go—as you can imagine—but I want to take a few minutes from touring, eating, walking and (on rare occasions) sleeping, to thank everyone who has taken the time to write to me as a result of the wonderful story and slide show on BBC online.

It’s so clear how deeply families and individuals are affected by AD—the stories that have been shared with me via e-mails and comments  have meant a great deal to me.  I love the connections and the way we enter each others lives.

My daughter kept her Flip on during my brief talk at the Gallery—I’ll send a link once we’re back in the States.

March 21, 2010

Photographs from Greece

The people I came across in Greece seemed very comfortable being photographed.  Even the animal mascot in Mykonos,  Petros the pink pelican, seemed comfortable in front of my camera.   I love being asked to speak in venues as beautiful and friendly as Greece.  And speaking of beautiful, the mountain village in the photograph below is real—although it’s so perfect it looks like a stage setting.

copyright 2010 by Judith Fox

copyright 2010 by Judith Fox

copyright 2010 by Judith Fox

March 14, 2010

Global Conversations about AD

What was so exciting about speaking at the ADI conference in Greece (Alzheimer’s Disease International)—in addition to the programs and the vibrant city of Thessaloniki—was the opportunity to talk with other participants and hear about AD programs throughout the world.  I spoke with people from Iran, the Netherlands, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Puerto Rico, Ireland, the UK and many other countries.   The interactions were inspiring, particularly since there’s attention being paid globally to AD that we in the U.S. can emulate.

And, speaking of inspiring, there is a television commercial from the U.K. that has wowed me.  It’s very simple—just a single dementia patient standing against a white background and talking about having—and living—with AD.  The message is: don’t run away from me, or fear me, when I tell you I have dementia.  I’m a real person, with thoughts and feelings, and here I am.  Why don’t we have similar spots in the U.S.?  I’m going to be asking that question of influential people in the field when I get back to the U.S.

I was thrilled with the response to my photographs and my book I Still Do: Loving and Living with Alzheimer’s.  My presentation centered around my experiences  caring for my husband, Ed, and the power of art to help people understand viscerally, and to relate to, those experiences and to connect with my husband’s story.  By extension, viewers and readers understand better the layers of the AD journey.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the friendly people of Greece and will share some photographs when I get home.

February 3, 2010

Grandchildren, AD and sfmoma

I just returned from trips to San Francisco and New Orleans, where I spoke to 2000 health care professionals.  The people to whom I spoke were engaged and energetic and really interested in talking about what it’s like to live with AD.  I was particularly touched by grown grandchildren who had experienced the gradual loss of a grandparent to the disease, and who often watched their parents take on the role of caregiver.  I know how special a grandparent-grandchild relationship can be and I think the pain AD brings to a grandchild is often overlooked.  I think the grandchildren to whom I spoke were glad to be able to talk about their grandparents and Alzheimer’s.  My grandson chose to write about Alzheimer’s for a class project—I know he and my granddaughter understand things about the fragility of life that other children their age might not.

On another note: when speaking before groups, I often don’t see more of a city than an airport, hotel room and venue (Convention Center in New Orleans.)  When in San Francisco, though, I did have the opportunity to spend a few lovely hours in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art—which was, not coincidentally, right near my hotel.  I often head first to the photography exhibitions—and this time was no exception.  But I was also struck by the design of the museum.  I’m attaching some of my photographs from sfmoma; if you’re in San Francisco, try to find time to make a visit.  I think you’ll enjoy it.

copyright 2010. Judith Fox

 

copyright 2010. Judith Fox

 

copyright 2010. Judith Fox

 


November 23, 2009

Missing the Conversation

Life has a way of interfering with blogging; at least my life has. Since I last blogged, I’ve had to move my husband to a facility near our home; my book “I Still Do: Loving and Living with Alzheimer’s” has been released; I just completed a three week east coast book tour; my new photography projects have expanded and I have several gallery and museum shows scheduled. So, that’s why I haven’t been keeping my eye on my blog. But I’m trying to understand the world of social media and the part it plays in global conversations—and I believe blogging is an important way to increase awareness of the issues surrounding AD. So I will try to add blogging to my life and hope you’ll help me by adding your own stories.

In traveling and talking about “I Still Do”—to caregivers, scientist, researchers and health care professionals—I’ve observed how inconsistent training and education is and how much work needs to be done in order to get the desperately needed Alzheimer’s funding, support and resources. We all need to share our experiences and stories with our governments, our media, our neighbors, and the members of our health care communities in a global effort to help them understand the nature of the epidemic we’re facing.

I’m optimistic, because conversations are starting to take place and AD is starting to come out of the closet—but I’m also realistic, and I know this is just the beginning.

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