Dealing with it – a glimpse inside the world of carers in France and those they care for


This series of photographs came about after a meeting with a team of researchers who have worked for ten years in the area of family and professional care for elderly dependant people, writes photographer Jean-Robert Dantou. They were seeking to understand how society responds when faced with a person who, on their own, could not survive. Friends, families, professionals, retirement homes, charities, local authorities: who intervenes and how? The choice of photographs was made in tandem with the researchers; first to show groups of carers, though care is most of the time organised as a series of hand-overs to the next person; then to show families and professionals together. Finally the idea was to photograph the places where people lived to give the full picture of how the care world operates. These photographs are the result of a compromise between my point of view and those of the people photographed; what I portray is their perception of collective care that they have agreed to show me. This portfolio of work was shown at the publication of the book Le Salaire de la confiance ('The wages of trust').

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    • Renée Devillière (centre) aged 100, who has Alzheimer's Disease, with (from left to right) Malika Berkane (a medical and psychological carer), Fernand Devillière (her son), Marie-Thérèse Kanu-Lusova (care assistant), Josiane Masika-Sango (care assistant). This photograph was taken on April 26, 2011 in Renée Devillière's home at Villejuif, a southern suburb of Paris.

    Renée Devillière is looked after several times a week at a day care centre for people suffering from Alzheimer's. The rest of the time she lives at home with her son. This photograph shows the group help that exists around her, bringing together her son and a team of professionals. This situation represents what the team of researchers call “the relation trap” in which a person finds themselves alone looking after a dependant, whether this involves a child who has no brother or sister and a widowed parent who becomes dependant, or a childless couple where one of them becomes a dependant. For the team this kind of “relation trap” that some carers find themselves in is purely a demographic one, based on the constraints of family ties; they have no choice but to help.
    In many other cases there are often several relatives who could be called into action, and one of them, most often a woman, is “assigned” the role of carer. Here the constraints that determine who becomes the carer are based on more normal social lines, and relate to a person’s income, availability, gender, abilities and so on.

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