Guatemala

When I returned from Africa in 2014, I was very interested in how other developing nations deal with Dementia. In 2016, I headed to Guatemala after making connections with ERMITA, their national Dementia organization. Though there was a language barrier, I discovered similarly to Kenya and South Africa, were people dealing with the same issues with stigma and poverty. I knew that this disease is a pandemic and that I had to share this story. Post my Guatemala trip, I traveled to London to present to Alzheimer’s Disease International and created the partnership that I have with them today giving them full use of my photographs for awareness and resources.

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua is a tourist destination so it is a rather upper class area in Guatemala. When we came to the home of this family, the man had recently been diagnosed with Dementia and was rapidly declining due to a reaction he had from surgery. His wife and daughter care for him full time.

Guatemala City, Gautemala

Arriving in Guatemala City I was able to really explore different areas and photograph in some incredible facilities as well as in a home. Ermita is a absolutely lightyears beyond many organizations in the developing world because they actually do have support from their government. It was interesting to me because apparently a prominent politician in Guatemala has a mother with Dementia so there is an influence there for advocacy. Ermita serves a general population with different chapters in other areas of Guatemala, but it does most of its work and has its facility in Guatemala City. When I arrived at Ermita, I was blown away at the daycare center. Not only was the services free for families, they also fed and gave free medication plus physical therapy and other services to any patient that came in. With lots of activities as well games and the caretakers were impeccably trained. I also attended a graduation where the local University has a Dementia Caretaker program which I haven’t even seen in the States.

I was then brought to the home of a husband caring for his wife that had very progressed Dementia. He lived in a lower income area and was very stressed about the cost of having a care taker. We then went to a very high end facility located in the city called Margarita that was a fulltime care center. It was beautiful and had every amenity that a care facility would have in the more developed countries. We finished the day at Shalom, a facility that absolutely changed my life. We arrived in an area that was very impoverished and when we entered this was the day I discovered the true journey of a photog journalist is to remove yourself from what is happening in front of you and just tell the story. We met simply the most incredible woman who started this facility on her own with no financial support. With over 30 patients she has 4 caretakers who are mostly volunteer so they had to tie patients to chairs with bedsheets so they would remain safe. These patients are people that have been abandoned by their families, or were homeless. One woman they found under a bridge and have no medical record or even know her name. The most important thing is these patients have a safe place to live, and are fed well.

Get ready for your heart to melt…

The reality is… the subject matter is super heavy. This was a monumental day when I removed myself from things that scared me or upset me and told the story that mattered the most. Even in situations that are tough to deal with, I always keep in mind I am photographing hope.