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Photographer Captures Brutally Honest Reality of Her Aunt's Alzheimer's Disease

Susan Falzone already knew what Alzheimer’s disease entailed when her Aunt Grace was diagnosed. She understood the devastation and frustration in watching a loved one’s mind deteriorate. Just years before, she’d witnessed the illness slowly take away the grandmother who raised her. She died in 2009.

After her own diagnosis, Aunt Grace summed up the disease best when, in the middle of a conversation she was having trouble getting through, she cut herself off and said this:

“Without my memories, I am nobody.”

Falzone, a photographer from Easton, Connecticut, wanted to use her work to help. While attending the International Center of Photography in New York City, she decided to focus her long-term project on documenting her aunt’s day-to-day life. With the ongoing series, “Grace,” she hopes to drive a conversation and raise awareness to a disease that affects about 5.1 million in the U.S., according to the National Institute on Aging. More than that, she wants to show those people and their loved ones that they’re a part of a community.

“You’re not alone; we’re going through this together,” Falzone, 35, told The Mighty in an email. “There are millions of families feeling the same heartache, the same frustrations and fears throughout the world. Sharing our stories makes us feel a little less alone.”

Susan's photograph of her aunt walking outside

Susan's photograph of her aunt on the telephone

Susan's photograph of her aunt buying a bouquet of flowers at a register

Susan's photograph of her aunt sitting in a dark room with light shining on her face

Susan's photograph of her aunt

Susan's photograph of her aunt reaching for something on the kitchen table

Six years later, Aunt Grace is 86 and in good health besides her mental state, according to Falzone. She can feed herself and go to the bathroom alone. She refers to her brother (Falzone’s father), who cares for her fulltime, as “Papa,” and speaks mainly in Italian, so Falzone now communicates with gestures.

“Aunt Grace still has quality of life, which my family and I are so grateful for,” Falzone told The Mighty. “[She is]just like you and me; she is representative of your mother, father, grandparents, your son or daughter.”

You can view more from “Grace” below and visit Falzone’s website for the full series.

Susan's photograph of her aunt walking outside at night

Susan's photograph of her aunt in a waiting room

Susan's photograph of her aunt sleeping in bed

Susan's photograph of her aunt's current house with photo of house from the past

h/t Feature Shoot

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