unobserved depression

I recently spent the day at Columbia Healthcare Center making portraits of residents and asking them one question: "How do you feel about living here?" The portraits were to illustrate a story in illumination magazine about depression going unobserved and untreated in elderly care facilities. Growing up my mom worked as a CNA at our local nursing home. This meant two things. One, we lived on a very tight budget. And two, I spent a lot of time roaming the halls of the nursing home, getting to know the residents and searching for the rooms with the best candy jars. It never occurred to my young naive mind that any of the folks that I encountered on a day to day basis were unhappy. That reality didn't become evident to me until my grandma was moved from the farm house, where she lived for more than half a century, to the nursing home, where she died in less than two years. I know it was not the move that eventually took her life, but I could feel it in the blank stares of her final days that she missed being in her own home.

My grandmother's story is not an unfamiliar one. Many elderly people are faced with the challenge of being taken from their homes because they are unable to care for themselves. I saw that same blank look that my grandma had in several of the folks that I photographed at Columbia Healthcare Center. Hopefully this aging in place method will catch on, especially by the time I'm unable to take care of myself and Cohen is deciding where to take my senile ass.