Breaking Alzheimer’s disease barriers with images

Posted 9/28/22

I instantly, I knew what I was looking at: an elephant’s butt. That’s not usually the angle photographers choose to get an elephant photo. That’s part of what made the picture …

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Breaking Alzheimer’s disease barriers with images



nstantly, I knew what I was looking at: an elephant’s butt. That’s not usually the angle photographers choose to get an elephant photo. That’s part of what made the picture over the couch in the Warwick Neck home of Keith Jochim and his wife Linda Golob so interesting. But it was what was in the photo, too. The butt looks like the weathered bark of an aged maple tree only it had a tail in place of a dangling branch.

Keith has an eye for capturing images, not of elephants, rather people.

He and Linda visited the Warwick Beacon about two weeks ago to let us know, and to get out the word, that about 100 of Keith’s photographs would be on display at the Warwick Public Library with a public opening reception on Thursday, Oct. 6 from 4 to 7:30 p.m.

The library is a popular location for the work of local artists. It gets a lot of traffic and the displays bring diversity to an expansive wall that would otherwise just be a wall.

This display will offer more than just pictures of people.

I wasn’t sure I had heard Keith correctly when he said he is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and was taking photographs of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The question popped into my mind: what would a photographer be looking to capture in an image of someone with Alzheimer’s and is there some look or characteristic that Keith is looking to capture? I got my answer and much more Saturday afternoon.

Keith aims to give to Alzheimer’s patients, not take something from them.

Keith and Linda have been photographing in a memory care facility with about 60 patients. Keith looks to get images of patients with a caregiver or family member, capturing them in a happy moment that hopefully will trigger memories of a good time. Often the photos are taped to the door of a patient, which helps them identify their room and remind others of their fellow tenants.

“I want them to see themselves in a very positive manner,” Keith said.

That description also applies to how Keith, who has a 40-year career as a professional actor on and off Broadway, sees himself. About two years ago he just didn’t feel right. He sought medical attention and was told he had been bitten by ticks although it wasn’t Lyme disease.

Linda picked up on the changes. On occasion he was confused as to where he was and he would forget things. After many tests, a neurologist diagnosed Alzheimer’s.

As the disease often progresses slowly, Keith is grateful he’s 80 because that means Alzheimer’s is not likely to get him before old age. Indeed, the glass is half full. I couldn’t tell Keith has the disease. He’s not lost for words and is great at telling stories and recalling events. It wasn’t an act.

Keith is a storyteller whether that message is delivered in an image, from his living room couch or from the stage.

In a personal message to be handed out at the library display, Keith talks about Alzheimer’s. “It does not diminish your desire to create, to discover, to express, to achieve” although, he adds it does not affect any two people the same way.

He goes on to say that he hopes by sharing his work and his thoughts, “will help you to reflect slightly differently about those in your life who have been diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.”

Only several photographs to be featured in the exhibit covering years of Keith’s work are Alzheimer’s patients. For those patients he considers the images an opportunity “to look into their own faces, with pride, as though into a mirror.”

I found myself questioning how best to photograph Keith.

He liked the idea of being placed in the midst of many of those he has photographed…a member of human family… and as you’ll see from the picture, the elephant is leading the way.

This Side Up, editorial