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Kenneth Morgan : Semantic Dementia in his own Words

June 1, 2017

This is a time-lapse digital sketch of my stepfather, overlaid with quotes from a conversation we had, over the course of an afternoon and an interrupted night. This was about six months ago? Maybe a bit longer.

It’s made in the iPad app Procreate. Which generates these time-lapse animations automatically.

Ken has a form of semantic dementia, which affects his ability to communicate, his short term memory, and spatial problem solving.

I guess we all know someone, or someone with parents in this situation? These people go through significant personality changes, and a drastic reduction of quality of life.

Today, he would be hard pressed to articulate his thoughts this clearly. Often he is unable to get through a sentence of complete words. At other times, he might read a fragment of text seen in passing, or say a complete greeting. He occasionally does a form of jazz-scat, what wikipeida calls ‘wordless vocables’.

I wasn’t sure if I’d post this. It’s been hanging around my hard drive for a while while I thought about it. But I suppose it’s his last words on the subject, so I felt like I would go ahead and share.


55 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2017 12:14 PM

    Sorry Marc. It’s hard to see family members lose themselves. Been through it. Hang in there.

  2. June 1, 2017 12:15 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Ken’s unfinished sentences put together with your time lapse sketch communicates more profoundly than anything I’ve seen, this state of mind and heart. Yes, we have all experienced it with someone we love and I guess we’re all in it together, trying to understand and respond with love.

  3. Cynthia Clarke permalink
    June 1, 2017 12:15 PM

    Hi Marc, It’s so painful to watch someone gradually, slowly die each time you see them and know how confused and needy they are for some answers and help. Makes us all a lot more humble and thankful for each day. Big hugs, Cynthia

  4. June 1, 2017 12:16 PM

    Thanks for posting this! Sensitively done.
    I haven’t tried to make art yet directly related to “me mums” advancing dementia … though my Natural Family History series of large mylar drawings are about family and memory.

  5. Nancy permalink
    June 1, 2017 12:19 PM

    Lovely and sad. We all lose so much as we age. Thanks for posting such a tender piece.

  6. June 1, 2017 12:20 PM

    Thank you for sharing. It is a powerful statement and voice for your stepfather. So many people have family members struggling with one form or another of dementia. It is heartbreaking.

  7. N Gray permalink
    June 1, 2017 12:36 PM

    Marc, Thank you for this inspiring piece. I’ve watched three people I love disappear before my eyes due to Alzheimer’s. Your sharing has inspired me to create a piece about my mother. Art has a way of expressing, sharing with others, bringing about understanding and compassion. In time…. healing some of the heartache without words.

  8. June 1, 2017 12:41 PM

    Thank you Marc for having the courage to post this. Many of us can relate. I watched my mother deteriorate in this way as well. One thing she was able to say to me after every visit was “I will always love you forever and ever.” And all I could for her and her aging brain was make her feel safe and cared for even though at times she could not understand me. Your animated drawing brought all those memories back for me. As one previous poster said the experience “Makes us all a lot more humble and thankful for each day. ”

    This is why our craft is so important…it communicates the depth of feelings in a way that words can not.

  9. June 1, 2017 12:45 PM

    Marc, this is a loving and sensitive piece on something that is not as pretty as painting and posting about pretty flowers. My parents did not suffer from this, but in other ways that was difficult to see.
    Although I don’t know what your step dad looks like, I’m pretty sure your sketch of him portrayed him accurately. The first thing I noticed were his eyes. They have no life in them…
    I think you are brave to post this, Not an easy thing for you to do… and we thank you for sharing it.

  10. June 1, 2017 1:00 PM

    Marc, your drawing speaks eloquently on behalf of your step father. Art goes straight to the heart, awakens empathy and connection, and reminds us we are all family. Thank you for this beautiful gift of trust and openness.

  11. carolyn doherty permalink
    June 1, 2017 1:12 PM

    Thanks for sharing. You aren’t alone with all these replies. That should give you some comfort.

  12. June 1, 2017 1:26 PM

    Very moving, this dementia has struck my family on both sides, my father’s brothers (my father died of a brain tumor so didn’t live long enough to lose his mind), and my mother lost her mind and passed away 2 short years later… it is very sad and frightening too, as I saw my future in those lost eyes of my mother.

  13. 427PE8UNM4Sy4Dl2oPK8J/RaCR033N74DzxfLQSAEAQ= permalink
    June 1, 2017 1:29 PM

    Lovely and beautiful. My mom was diagnosed with dementia, and since I was a nurse, I cared for her for 15 years. She was the gift to me, as your uncle is to you for bringing awareness and empathy of this disease – once again through the love of art. Thank you.

  14. June 1, 2017 1:36 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m going thru this now with my Mother …so, it means so much to see this. I wish I had your talent to capture this stage of her life so sweetly and eloquently…. again..thank you.

  15. Marcia Milner-Brage permalink
    June 1, 2017 1:42 PM

    Very touching.

  16. Dot permalink
    June 1, 2017 1:47 PM

    Thank you for posting. Watched both my father and mother slip away. Since it tends to run in families, it now looms in the back of my mind all the time. Your art and his words create a heartfelt picture.

  17. June 1, 2017 2:16 PM

    It’s very sad but good for all of us to be aware of. Thanks for sharing both the great art and your (and your stepfathers) experience.

  18. June 1, 2017 2:39 PM

    Thank you for sharing. Very touching and sad that so many people are affected by this and similar sicknesses.

  19. June 1, 2017 2:57 PM

    A very sad and tender depiction of the losses Ken is suffering. Combined with your art, the deterioration is so lovingly presented. My love and prayers are with you and your family.

  20. June 1, 2017 4:20 PM

    Thank you for posting this loving piece.

  21. June 1, 2017 4:27 PM

    So very touching – thank you for sharing such a loving and sensitive portrait and words . I wish you and your family all the best . Hugs!

  22. Malinda Anderson permalink
    June 1, 2017 4:40 PM

    Thank you so much for posting this. It was very moving. Malinda Anderson

  23. Rita Cleary permalink
    June 1, 2017 4:41 PM

    Wow, Marc…this is powerful and so personal. So sad too. You get to see that he KNOWS what’s happening, that’s it beyond his control, that he is lost, and somewhat resigned. There are NO *good* bad things that can happen as we age, but I would think the loss of one’s mental capacity is one of the cruelest in that it is the loss of self. I will view this now and again as a reminder to thank God each day for mental acuity. and I will remember you and Ken and your mother as you walk thru this valley.

    *Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.*

    On Thu, Jun 1, 2017 at 12:03 PM, Citizen Sketcher wrote:

    > Marc Taro Holmes posted: “ This is a > time-lapse digital sketch of my stepfather, overlaid with quotes from a > conversation we had, over the course of an afternoon and an interrupted > night. This was about six months ago? Maybe a bit longer. It’s mad” >

  24. Susan Garcia permalink
    June 1, 2017 4:53 PM

    I work with Geriatric patients and see this every day but this is a very powerful description of the toll this disease takes on individuals and their families. Thank you for sharing this very personal time you shared and for capturing it in your painting and in his words.

  25. Bernadette permalink
    June 1, 2017 6:30 PM

    I cannot add more to what has already been so eloquently written. What I can add is my thank you for loving your step father through the stages of loss. The time you took to document his words and capture his portrait speak much of his impact upon your life. How blessed you were to have him for the time you did. I too have seen this in my own family, in aunts and uncles. Your step father would be so touched and proud of the beautiful tribute you paid to him through your art. Thank you for sharing.

  26. daveyone1 permalink
    June 1, 2017 6:57 PM

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

  27. Ellen Miller permalink
    June 1, 2017 7:26 PM


    This is so beautiful it gives me chills. Aside from your talent your heart is large. A wonderful tribute.

    Ellen Miller


  28. paul royRoy permalink
    June 1, 2017 7:56 PM

    Touching, moving. Just no words to describe this.

  29. Annie permalink
    June 1, 2017 8:45 PM

    Well, Marc, I think this is a lovely tribute to your stepdad, your sketch of him and your conversation with him. A huge reminder for all of us of the feelings and the frustrations for a person so afflicted. As a speech-language pathologist, you have also given me a reminder of what the loss of communication means for those who love a person slowly losing that. Your portrait is touching, it touched me.

  30. Debbie Thornhillz permalink
    June 1, 2017 9:04 PM

    So profoundly moving, Marc. Words can’t capture the sadness of this situation. Such dignity in the face of loss.

  31. diversetrendz permalink
    June 1, 2017 9:49 PM

    This is lovely Marc

  32. June 1, 2017 10:18 PM

    You’ve illustrated in ways that words can’t grasp how much is lost, even as your stepfather tries desperately to hang on. You’ve assured his dignity. I’m sure he understands your sensitivity to him. My mother has Alzheimer’s, late stage. She can still speak, read, and sometimes she can write, but she lives in another dimension. It’s not like the TV ads, is it? The devastation of this illness is profound. Thank you for sharing this painful journey, Marc.

  33. Bettina Armstrong permalink
    June 2, 2017 12:23 AM

    This is so moving and I am glad that you decided to share this work and your experience of your stepfather’s words. How beautiful to combine his image through your painting and his words through text. Communicating with our loved ones is so fundamental, that the loss of this ability is staggering.

  34. June 2, 2017 7:55 AM

    Marc, I’m caregiving for my 92 year old father with Alzhiemer’s, but he still has the ability to communicate. I am (still-really should finish it) filling a sketchbook with all his stories and sketches I’ve done of him. But this, Marc, is powerful. You found a way to communicate so tenderly the pain of this type of loss. It touched my soul. Thank you for sharing and I will be sharing this! God bless you and your stepfather. My prayers are with you.

  35. Bklynsketcher permalink
    June 2, 2017 10:05 AM

    This was short but very powerful and touching. It is very difficult to watch a loved one diminish in this way. Thank you for sharing.

  36. mbperson permalink
    June 2, 2017 10:11 AM

    You have captured something with a sketch that a camera cannot: an essence. And since you have done it digitally, you could do something a sketchbook cannot: run the sketch backwards, for an even more dramatic illustration of Kenneth’s words. Stunning as is, however.

  37. Cindy Shaw permalink
    June 2, 2017 12:12 PM

    I have been there too as my mother-in-law suffered for 12 years with this. Your juxtaposition of the building of the image and the lost words are so strong. I think it’s the vacant eyes and the spaces left between the words, for me, that brings back the memory of that time. Your piece is gentle and kind and gives this terrible malidy dignity. Bless you and your kind heart.

  38. Erik Madsen permalink
    June 2, 2017 2:50 PM

    Hi Marc, thanks for sharing. We’ve lost two parents to this disease, as you and your wife know, it’s sure hard to watch them go. Your piece brought tears to our eyes, our very best to your family.
    Erik and Diane Madsen

  39. Margaret Mankin permalink
    June 2, 2017 11:47 PM

    Dear Marc, you are very brave to share with us. You are giving the best heart felt gift to your step father – love and tender support. May you all be blessed with courage and love.

  40. June 3, 2017 8:14 AM

    Thank you for sharings this work. It matters! Can I find it on Youtube?

  41. Jan W permalink
    June 3, 2017 11:51 AM

    This was definitely a worthwhile post, for you and for so many others who are/have experienced this as a relative/caregiver. Much sadness and suffering by all involved. To see it end is a kind of relief when your loved one is already “gone” and struggling with fear and confusion–not even recognizing those they have loved lifelong. The cruelest fate in my opinion. Treasure the time you have with him and thank you for posting.

  42. April permalink
    June 4, 2017 3:41 AM

    Thank you for sharing Marco.. it’s a very innocent yet confusing place to find oneself in ❤

  43. June 4, 2017 6:39 PM

    Truly beautiful and moving tribute to Ken, Marc. Blessings (not a word I would ordinarily use, but which expresses more tenderness than the word thoughts) to you and your family.

  44. June 5, 2017 9:34 AM

    Marc, I am so sorry. God be with him.

  45. June 5, 2017 9:20 PM

    Thanks for sharing this touching video demo of your dear father. I too am experiencing the physical/mental decline of my beloved father right before my eyes. Watching your sketching is an inspiration to me.

  46. June 11, 2017 8:56 PM

    Thanks for sharing, Marc. If creates a deeper connection with people who are in our lives ,it celebrates and heals both good and bad. I created drawing for my family and friends only because I was told by my art teacher in school to stay with art. They don’t forget my gifts I made for them but I did have meaning behind my work and I think it shows that you love your dad and it’s very brave of you to share with the world. Thanks , by the way I am taking your craftsy classes these days.

  47. April 12, 2018 5:30 PM

    I second all the previous thank-yous, with a reminder that any of us viewing this now may soon be in the situation of your stepfather. We can only hope for such a loving and empathic tribute as you have given.

  48. May 16, 2018 10:15 AM

    Walking through dementia with my mother now…. so sorry.


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