• Into Oblivion

    Alzheimer’s disease in a “Protected Unit”, an observation of care within the geriatric institution.

    “The issue is how society, including human services, has chosen to define older people as post-adults living in institutions.” Bruce C. Blaney

    The proportion of elderly people in western society is constantly rising. Some 24 million people worldwide suffer from dementia and about half of these people have Alzheimer’s disease. The growing number of senior citizens in developed countries is raising the incidence of this disease and scientists predict that the number will have tripled by 2050.
    While investigating the politics of ageing in modern society, I have for three years photographed life within a geriatric hospital in the northwest of France.
    The “Protected Unit” is home to residents with Alzheimer’s disease. Due to tendencies to wander about and potentially get lost, they are confined within the ward. A locked door separates the occupants from the rest of the hospital.

    Ruled according to the “principle of precaution”, residents in the unit can circulate freely within the secured area but due to a lack of activities and a limited presence of carers in the ward, the locked door becomes the centre of attention for the elders who question the obstruction and attempt to force it open.
    The daily struggle with the door, damaged due to repeated attempts to pick the lock, can last for hours.

    This series documents not only the day-to-day challenges in an often ignored sector, but also the wider implications of the growing populations of elderly in modern society as an increasing life span has coincided with the breakdown of the family unit.

    These aspects have caused a growing disregard for the elderly, swept aside by a commercially driven, youth-obsessed culture. As growing old and being dependent is more taboo than ever, the geriatric institution hides our elders away, safely out of sight.

    Due to the increased number of affected elders, the geriatric sector is confronted with a rising demand for specialized care. The Ward pictured in this series is an example of a service introduced as a result of a rapidly growing demand but without additional costs or an increased number of staff.

    While giving a vision about what living with Alzheimer’s in an institution might mean, I want to motivate people to think about current care policies and the effects it can have on somebody’s life. This project gives a rare insight to a part of the modern geriatric institution. It attempts to create a discussion about our institutionalized, modern way of living as well as the use of confinement as an aspect of care.

    I would like for this series to encourage the current development of new forms of care in specialised institutions. With serious investment and with some attention given to this topic, it is possible to make life better for the affected elders and their relatives.

  • Resident stands in front of the ward’s locked exit. Doors and blocked passing’s are disturbing elements to a person suffering from Alzheimer’s due to the common symptom to regularly often wander about. As a result of the potential risk of getting lost, the ward is confined for security reasons according to the « principle of precaution».
  • Resident’s room in ward. Most people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease live in institutions today. The number of individuals above the age of 60 is expected to double over the next 25 years.
  • Resident sits in the Alzheimer’s ward’s common room. She is talking aloud to someone i can't see. The age-related disease is a mystery to the western world as very little is known about its causes. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease although medication has been proven to slow down the developing process of the symptoms.
  • Soup and apple juice, Alzheimer's ward.
  • Resident’s room in Alzheimer’s ward.
  • Resident stands in front of the ward’s locked exit. Doors and blocked passing’s are disturbing elements to a person suffering from Alzheimer’s due to the common symptom to regularly often wander about. As a result of the potential risk of getting lost, the ward is confined for security reasons according to the « principle of precaution».
  • Resident stands in front of the ward’s locked exit. Doors and blocked passing’s are disturbing elements to a person suffering from Alzheimer’s due to the common symptom to regularly often wander about. As a result of the potential risk of getting lost, the ward is confined for security reasons according to the « principle of precaution».
  • Seven A.M. in a resident’s room after a long night in the ward. Alzheimer’s disease can cause behaviour difficulties such as aggressiveness, eating disorders, increased anxiety or depressive tendencies.
  • Resident in Alzheimer’s ward expressing confusion and anxiety. A person can live with Alzheimer’s disease for about ten years while a constant degradation of memory and an increasing loss of contact to the outside world can be observed.
  • Christmas flower, Alzheimer’s ward.
  • Resident stop in front of a wall in the Alzheimer’s ward. A common symptom for Alzheimer’s disease is sudden immobilization or fixation.
  • Resident stands in front of the ward’s locked exit. Doors and blocked passing’s are disturbing elements to a person suffering from Alzheimer’s due to the common symptom to regularly often wander about. As a result of the potential risk of getting lost, the ward is confined for security reasons according to the « principle of precaution».
  • Resident stands in front of the ward’s locked exit. Doors and blocked passing’s are disturbing elements to a person suffering from Alzheimer’s due to the common symptom to regularly often wander about. As a result of the potential risk of getting lost, the ward is confined for security reasons according to the « principle of precaution».
  • Jesus in staircase window, Alzheimer’s Ward.
  • Resident lies in bed in Alzheimer’s ward. Most residents in the ward have reached a state in the evolution of the disease where they have lost most of their communication skills and few even recognize family members.
  • Resident lifts her skirt and exposes her legs while wandering in the ward’s common room.
  • Wall in resident's room, Alzheimer's ward.
  • Residents peek through the windows of the ward’s locked exit. Doors and blocked passing’s are disturbing elements to a person suffering from Alzheimer’s due to the common symptom to regularly often wander about. As a result of the potential risk of getting lost, the ward is confined for security reasons according to the « principle of precaution».
  • Resident stands in the common room of the Alzheimer’s ward.
  • Christmas decorations hanging from the ceiling, Alzheimer’s ward.
  • Resident stands in front of the ward’s locked exit. Doors and blocked passing’s are disturbing elements to a person suffering from Alzheimer’s due to the common symptom to regularly often wander about. As a result of the potential risk of getting lost, the ward is confined for security reasons according to the « principle of precaution».
  • Resident stands in front of the ward’s locked exit. She has packed her belongings and is preparing to leave and go home. Doors and blocked passing’s are disturbing elements to a person suffering from Alzheimer’s due to the common symptom to regularly often wander about. As a result of the potential risk of getting lost, the ward is confined for security reasons according to the « principle of precaution».
  • Resident in common room, Alzheimer’s ward.
  • Resident tries one of his neighbour’s coats, getting ready to go out. Objects in the ward tend to circulate among residents since the affectionate value attached to them is lost.
  • Souvenirs from Sunday Mass, Alzheimer’s ward.
  • Resident stands in front of the ward’s locked exit. Doors and blocked passing’s are disturbing elements to a person suffering from Alzheimer’s due to the common symptom to regularly often wander about. As a result of the potential risk of getting lost, the ward is confined for security reasons according to the « principle of precaution».
  • Resident confronts the ward’s locked exit. Doors and blocked passing’s are disturbing elements to a person suffering from Alzheimer’s due to the common symptom to regularly often wander about. As a result of the potential risk of getting lost, the ward is confined for security reasons according to the « principle of precaution».
  • Resident falls asleep during breakfast, Alzheimer’s ward.
  • Resident looks out from a sealed window, Alzheimer’s ward.
  • Resident sits in front of the ward’s locked exit. Doors and blocked passing’s are disturbing elements to a person suffering from Alzheimer’s due to the common symptom to regularly often wander about. As a result of the potential risk of getting lost, the ward is confined for security reasons according to the « principle of precaution».
  • The locked exit of the ward is damaged due to repeated attempts to force it open. The residents in the ward are confined for security reasons according to the « principle of precaution »; initiated to protect the residents.