October 28, 2009 at 8:41 am , by Julie Bain
Chances are you know someone whose family is coping with Alzheimer’s disease. More than 5 million Americans have it. For the millions who are caregivers, it’s normal to feel anger, denial, depression or worse. Many of them probably don’t want to be reminded that November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.
“But this disease has been in the closet too long,” says Southern California photographer Judith Fox, whose new book, I Still Do: Loving and Living with Alzheimer’s, is an inspiration. She wants to remove the stigma and sense of isolation so many families feel.
Just three years into her marriage to Dr. Edmund Ackell, a multi-talented man who was a surgeon, pilot, artist, athlete and university administrator, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. For years, Fox had to see the man who’d wielded a scalpel or a basketball with utter confidence forget how to use the coffeemaker or recall what someone just said to him. But instead of falling into despair, Fox decided to capture the still-very-much-intact soul of the man she loves in luminous, funny, charming and heartbreaking photos. It was another way of loving him and touching him, she explains.
“Why do family caregivers do what we do?” she asks about this devastating disease in the video below. “Because it’s a privilege to help somebody,” she says.. “We can do no less.”
Fox is brave. It took me years to be able to talk or write about the caregiving journey I took with my father during his long illness. And I wish I’d had more practical resources like Leeza’s Place, founded by TV celeb Leeza Gibbons during her caregiving experiences with her mom.
But I now see how much I learned from that time in my life and how it helped me grow. Fox’s beautiful book I Still Do is a powerful reminder that love can endure—no matter what.