Beginning at the End:
Portraits of Dementia by Joe Wallace

© 2019 Joe Wallace

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Nancy Heisey

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Nancy Heisey was born in 1952 in Gloucester MA. She loved to cook and worked in the delis and kitchens of local Gloucester grocery stores most of her life. Nancy has a soft spot for dogs and there was always a rescue dog in the house from the local shelter. Her family has an inside joke that Nancy liked the dogs better than her family and was more likely to tell a sweet or funny story about the dog than a story about her human friends.

 

When Nancy was in her 40’s her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Nancy and her family rallied to support their mother and for a while they were able to care for her at home. Eventually it became too hard and sometimes unsafe so they made the decision to move her to a nursing home. Nancy visited several times each week, bringing home cooked treats to her mother, other residents and nurses.

 

Her mother passed away from pneumonia in 2011 and within a year Nancy started to show signs of memory issues too. Soon Nancy was diagnosed with vascular dementia and her daughter Jeannine has moved back home to help take care of Nancy. Now Jeannine makes meals for Nancy and tries to keep her happy and safe, constantly worrying about when it will become too difficult and perhaps unsafe to keep her at home. So often with dementia, history cruelly repeats itself and the caregiver ultimately becomes the cared-for.