'The Forgotten Project' presents look at Alzheimer's disease caregivers

- A Houston-area photographer is sharing her family's personal struggle with Alzheimer's disease through a series of powerful photos. It's called "The Forgotten Project by Free Spirit Foto." Sherina Welch wants to pay tribute to the caregivers whose work often goes unnoticed.

Welch can do little more than observe through her lens, all while remembering what life used to be like for her parents. 

"Their whole life was planned to travel," says Welch. 

Dreams shattered in 2005. Alzheimer's disease ravaged Lillian Soord's brain and robbed the couple of their retirement. 

"I didn't dream this would happen, but it does and mostly when people least expect it," said Tony Soord. 

Tony and his wife are confined to a tiny garage apartment almost 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Now in the end stage, the once-protective mama bear can no longer speak. Tony purees all her food, bathes and dresses her with only occasional help from a nurse. 

"It is my job, in sickness and in health," explained Tony.

Welch set out to document her father's unwavering dedication to her mother. More than 20 black and white photos depict the real life struggle and heartbreak that so many loved ones experience. 

"In these photos, I'm trying to portray isolation for the caregiver," said Welch.

Calling it "The Forgotten Project," the photos will be on display to the public on Thursday night at the Jack Meier Gallery. 

"Basically I want people to ask as they're viewing the gallery, 'Who is the forgotten? Is it the patient or the caregiver?'"

The number of Americans living with Alzheimer's disease is increasing. Almost 60 percent of caregivers rate the emotional stress of their job as high or very high. 

"Well, my advice is to always remember in sickness and in health," said Tony. "Life is not easy for anyone. Everyone has a cross. This is my cross." 

They hope sharing such a personal story will help more people overcome a fear of talking about it.

"The Forgotten Project by Free Spirit Foto" is free and open to all visitors. It's Thursday at the Jack Meier Gallery. That's at 2310 Bissonnet Street from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. There will be representatives from the Alzheimer's Association there to answer any questions.

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