Alzheimer’s Disease: Behind Locked Doors

Alzheimer's Disease affects 1 in 10 people over the age of 65. From it’s origin as abnormal protein fragments (plaques and tangles) to it’s slow and tedious end (death), Alzheimer's Disease take a toll on everyone it touches.

Alzheimer's Disease
A resident stares out a window of the ward’s (locked) doorway. Doors are locked to prevent residents from wandering off. Wandering is a frequent issue for sufferers of Alzheimer's Disease. | photo by: Maja Daniels

Swedish photographer Maja Daniels spent 3 years in Northern France, documenting life in the “protected unit” of geriatric hospital. Residents of the Alzheimer's ward become particularly interested in a set of locked doors, which separate them from the outside world.

Maya says that the locked door becomes the center of attention for the elders who question the obstruction and attempt to force it open.  The daily struggle with the door, damaged due to repeated attempts to pick the lock, can last for hours.

Alzheimers Disease - Maja Daniels
Alzheimer's suffers fidget with the ward's locked doors.| photo by: Maja Daniels

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive related issues that interfere with ones daily life. According to the Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Unfortunately, Alzheimer's Disease is fatal and today there is no known cure.

Alzheimers Disease - Maja Daniels
Although there is no known cure, researchers are working to develop policies and procedures for all involved (families, friends and caregivers). | photo by: Maja Daniels

Maja Daniels' collection of photographs, titled “Into Oblivion” pulls back the curtain, and confronts the uncomfortable reality of Alzheimers and other dementia related illnesses.  Alzheimer's Disease doesn't just affect those with the disease, it has a profound affect on family members and caregivers.

RELATED: PBS Documentary On Family Caregiving

Alzheimer's Disease - Maja Daniels photos
The morning after… An Alzheimer's sufferer and the aftermath of a difficult night. | photo by: Maja Daniels

Ms. Daniels told PBS that “The power of the project lies in its very strict viewpoint and simplistic storytelling.” She went on to say that “when you're experiencing this disease it's like the world is slowly fading.”

Alzheimer's Disease - Maja Daniels
All packed but nowhere to go… | photo by: Maja Daniels

Even though there are activities and people rushing in and out to care for them, a large majority of the time is spent without much happening at all. So that silence is something I wanted to get across, partly because it felt like part of some interior silence as well. – photographer Maja Daniels talks with PBS, 12/1/16

Alzheimer's Disease patient
Into Oblivion | photo by Maja Daniels

RELATED: 3 New Studies Show Impact Of Exercise On Alzheimer’s Disease

About the project, Into Oblivion; “This project gives a rare insight to a part of the modern geriatric institution. It attempts to create a discussion about our institutionalized, modern way of living as well as the use of confinement as an aspect of care.” – Maja Daniels

Alzheimer's Disease photo exhibit
Waiting in front of the ward's locked doors. | photo by: Maja Daniels

Did you know:  Up to 5 percent of people with Alzheimer's have early onset Alzheimer's (or younger-onset), which often appears in people age 40-50.

Alzheimers Disease
A resident at rest. | photo by Maja Daniels

RELATED: Life With Alzheimer’s Disease

The Alzheimer's Association reports that Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Those with Alzheimer's live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others.

Alzheimer's Disease photos
Life behind locked doors… | photo by: Maja Daniels


  1. No wonder the patients, (I prefer to call them inmates) want to escape that horrible place. Stark, plain walls without any kind of decor or anything that resembles a warm, inviting home. I’d do anything I could to escape so I don’t blame them one bit. A “protected” ward such as that needs to have multiple distractions that direct a patient into a loving, nurturing environment like a social gathering room. Liberal Americans like to hold France, with their socialized medical care up as a standard by which we should model ours. If that’s what you really want, take a good hard look at this disgusting prison they call “protected”.

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