PhotoSensitive

Aging

In Canada’s open society, aging is still an uncomfortable topic for mainstream media—but PhotoSensitive has decided to tackle it and shine light onto the lives of older adults with black and white photography. Canada's photographers are turning their collective lens to reexamine what it means to age.

My mom was always afraid of the idea of going to a long-term-care facility. Even when my dad’s Alzheimer got to severe, and we had to place him in long-term care, she didn’t like the days she visited him. He passed away almost 7 years ago and when I think about him I still feel guilt for placing him in a place “of no return”. Now it’s my mom’s turn. She has been in her long-term facility for more than 6 months now, and again I am experiencing the same feelings of remorse for placing her there.My mom started to live with us six years ago, when it wasn’t safe for her to live in her apartment. At the start, I was able to leave her on her own for short periods of time, but soon, she needed more and more supervision that quickly grew to having somebody by her side 24 hours a day. Her dementia was progressing and she couldn’t remember anything, even where the bathroom was. It is painful to watch my mom, who is a strong, independent and good-hearted person, slowly become more dependent. My life was changing drastically. I couldn’t leave the house to go to the grocery store, meet a friend or catch a movie. It had started to put a strain on my relationship with my husband. I felt depressed. In private I cried a lot. I didn’t want my husband or my children to know that I felt taking care of my mom was such a burden. Last year my mom broke her hip, and after more then a month in the hospital she came back home to live with me. Sadly, after three months, I felt so depressed that it was impossible for me to take care of her and I applied to a few nursing homes under the “crisis” situation. I was lucky to receive a placement at Cawthra Gardens Long Term Care Community, which is located only 15 minutes away from my house. Every day, at 8am in the morning, I go to visit my mom and assist her with breakfast. I’m usually there with her for 2 – 3 hours. I take her out, we go to the lobby for a coffee, look at some magazines, photos and art books. Although she receives good care at Cawthra Gardens and everybody there is very nice and attentive, days when I’m unable to go, I worry about her. Did she eat? Was she calm or anxious? Does she feel alone? I realize that I am not only one with these same concerns. I know other people feel guilty if they miss a visit with their loved one. I see their dedication, coming every day to be with them, to help them feel the closeness and love of their family. One gentleman was there every day for 10 years. His wife recently passed away, yet he still comes from time to time to visit the staff and residents. About a month ago I bought a doll for my mom. It is soft and has large, clear eyes. It was the smartest thing I have done, She loves her. She thinks it is a real baby and sometimes she even worries that the baby may be hungry or may need to go the washroom. She had always taken care of my 3 children, and now she has another one to care for. My mom doesn’t feel lonely anymore, this doll occupies her mind, and it makes me feel better when I know that she is busy taking care of “her child”.For me it is a commitment by choice. I choose to plan my days around my mom. Every morning I prepare her a smoothie from greens and fruits, and make her some milk from sprouted almonds. My brother is crazy about natural food and remedies and together we try to give her what is best. She turned 95 in January, and if not for her advanced dementia, late stage of macular degeneration and hearing problems, nobody would guess her age.My parents helped us tremendously; they gave us everything they could. As new immigrants to Canada, my husband and I worked from the morning until the late hours and my parents took care of our three children. They gave my family their unconditional love. And now, when my mother needs help and care, it is time to pay it forward, now it is time to give her back all the love and care she gave us. Having three grandchildren – an 8, 6, and 4 month-old, I often regret that I didn’t spend enough time with them. I could have but, instead, I dedicated most of my time to my mom. Somehow kids grow too fast and old people grow slowly “smaller”.Maybe if I could be a better ‘planner’ I would plan it differently, divide my time better, but there are only 24 hours in one day. Not enough time for everybody. At least now that my mom is safe, I have more time for myself, and my grandchildren, who are still very young and growing fast.

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