Fifteen years ago Debbie, a retired New York City schoolteacher, found herself having to deal with an unplanned and unwanted situation; Milton, her beloved husband of more than 40 years, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Untrained and unprepared for this challenge, Debbie started her journey through caregiving.
“Unconditional Love” documents their journey and the difficulties they have to overcome, focusing on the psychological, physical and everyday demands of a caregiver.
I have been developing a project focusing on the way families manage to overcome the challenges in the caregiving journey of Parkinson’s disease, accentuating the psychological, physical and everyday aspects of caregiving.
Unconditional Love is a project that aims contribute to the awareness of this vital and disregarded issue in order to impact health care system and generate discussion and raise questions concerning this increasingly common condition.
My initial interest to study photography, it was not seeking to satisfy an artistic need, but to find a way to transmit messages, to show people different realities that otherwise would be totally alien and indifferent. I believe that photography is a great tool to disseminate ideas, situations and stories with the strength and direction that only she can give.
I want my projects to influence people on a personal level and become a tool to generate social change and awareness. Eventually, this became the reason I enrolled in the One Year Certificate Program in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the International Center of Photography.
The motivation for this project comes from my personal history, from the fact that my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2001, and for the last couple of years my brothers and I started to take care of him. Because of my experience I know it can be very hard and had a lot of impact on the family dynamics and priorities. This project is very personal to me, and for this reason I think I can have a very close and sincere approach.
In this past year I have been very fortunate that people in these situations opened their lives and shared their stories with me, we made a relationship and a mutual understanding of our common ground, which has also helped me to understand my own feelings and confront my own emotions. I consider this project a long-term journey that I will want to take further, into other countries and different situations of caregiving and nursing, as well as to document my own family process.
Now it opens an opportunity to take this project to the next step, where hopefully it can make a deeper impact in society and government, so they realize how important is the support for families and patients, and the unique role of nurses and institutions.
Society regularly looks the other way regarding the elderly and sick. Denial about aging perpetuates and encourages this attitude. “Unconditional Love” will help people acknowledge that aging and sickness is a natural journey for which family and government support is essential.
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RAMON RUIZ SAMPAIO
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