Capturing Lockdown Life as I Care for My High-Risk Father
Based in St. Ann’s, Nottingham, photographer Grace Eden has been documenting her life under lockdown.
Hi, I’m Grace. I am a self-taught fine art and documentary photographer from St. Anns. I am also a full-time carer for my 77-year-old father who has Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. At the moment we are still shielding at home.
My photography has many styles. I create Fine Art “painterly” portraits using my old DSLR camera and also do Fine Art nature photography.
Recently, I have returned to the start of my photographic journey: documentary-style phone photography. It all began back in 2015, whilst I was on a Spirituality and Mindfulness course at Nottingham Recovery College. We were tasked with taking random photographs on our mobile phones as a means of escaping our mental health challenges. I still find that documenting my life via my camera helps my depression. It helps me cope with my everyday challenges.
The series of images that follow were taken using my mobile phone. I wanted to capture a little of my life as a carer and a woman with mental health challenges; to show my lockdown life. Raw and black and white, I wanted the stark imagery to tell the story of my fear facing this pandemic, both as a carer and an ordinary human being with an uncertain mind. I also wanted to document the moments of positivity in lockdown. These have often been others’ acts of kindness, but also my own unwillingness to give up. Instead, I’ve strived to achieve, learn and grow as a person in the face of tremendous adversity.
I went into lockdown before the government announced it. I made the decision based on Dad’s poor health. We went into official shielding mode in the first week in March. We are still shielding now, apart from a spell in hospital. Here we are sat on our doorstep, enjoying a cup of tea in the much-needed sunshine. Dad seems blissfully unaware of the concerns that surround him.
Wash Your Hands
At the beginning of the COVID outbreak, “wash your hands” was the key message. Seems simple right? But what about those who struggle to wash their hands? The ones with dementia who forget, the ones with arthritic joints who struggle to turn on taps or rub hands together. My father is struggling on two counts: memory and balance. I wash his hands with mine so I can reach all the nooks and crannies. He grips onto my hands for dear life, like a newborn curling their tiny hands around your finger. I dry his hands and wash mine again, several times every single day. My hands are like gravel but it’s a small price to pay.
Before the country was locked down, as people panicked and supermarket shelves were left bare, my Asda home delivery didn’t arrive. I think I went into some sort of shock. Supermarkets were overwhelmed and stockpilers were buying chest freezers to house their bounty. I’m sure there are many vulnerable people that haven’t been out, who are relying on their delivery only to be faced with the devastation of no supplies. The elderly and vulnerable rely on friends, neighbors, and kind hearts to drop off bread and eggs and toilet paper. Even with food, many vulnerable people can’t physically feed themselves. My father relies on me completely. Carers and care staff are so important.
Coronavirus: 0 Community Spirit: 10
What you see here are many bags of shopping. All at my doorstep. All left for me and my father today by wonderful, kind, caring friends. The response I have had following my Asda delivery failure, has been truly overwhelming. My phone has not stopped. Messages, calls, offers of help: Friendship. Some very close friends, some folk I’ve not met but they are social media friends. Some say there is something substantial spreading like wildfire through the world right now. Something that will change our lives forever: community spirit.
For three days Dad asked for toast at breakfast time. On each occasion, I had to tell him no because we have no bread. 2020 and we have no bread! The struggle for yeast was real. Some amazing friends chipped in to keep me going for a while. I also had bread dropped off at my door. My father’s joy on knowing he could have his toast in the morning was plain to see. I shed a tear to be able to give him the little thing he wanted. That is thanks to friends.
I am an empath and so fearful for the world and all its people. I am so worried about our hospitals and the staff within them. I worry about the stretched carers like myself, behind closed doors in isolation doing everything without a break. I cry for families and relationships that are separated. This feather has been stuck to a lavender plant near my doorstep for weeks now. It reminds me of my mum, who passed away in 2010. She is watching over us. It’s about the only thing that makes me feel protected.
This foot pedal for my Dad is my best isolation purchase to date! Just brilliant. Dad’s balance means walking isn’t easy and, as a vulnerable person, he can’t get out to walk anyway. This is portable and he can sit in the garden too. I think as a terrible fidget I’m going to find this exercising at home lark easier than most. I struggle to sit down for long periods and being a carer involves a lot of hard labor. I’ve lost count of the times I run up and down the stairs!
First outing since lockdown
Since March I’ve strived to keep my Dad safe from coronavirus. I’ve kept him home, I’ve stayed at home, I’ve sanitized everything that has come into the house, avoided everything and everyone. And yet, despite all this, a few weeks ago, we found ourselves at the one place I feared most: the hospital. I had the agony of the paramedics telling me that because of COVID, I could not accompany him to the QMC. It took me hours upon hours of calling and speaking to various consultants before I was given special permission to see him. We finally got the diagnosis of twisted bowel and failing kidneys. They said had I not called when I did, he wouldn’t have survived. To think that I was worrying so much about COVID that I almost didn’t get Dad to the hospital! The hospital staff was amazing — clean, calm and collected. Our NHS deserves those claps, and then some.
This story originally appeared on City Arts Nottingham.