Couple shares heart-wrenching moments of living with Alzheimer's Disease
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) —
If you think you're too young to be affected by Alzheimer's Disease, think again.
Early onset can strike in the prime of your life. Just ask the Richardson family. In their first television interview, they share what life is like as memories fade away.
A chance encounter at the softball fields led to a home run for Bob and Lori Richardson.
"About five months later we got married and he moved down here and that was it. That was almost 20 years ago," explained Lori.
With a combined family that includes five kids and 11 grandkids, the active couple has spent vacations over the last 15 years at Glacier National Park in Montana. And the two have a lifetime of memories, at least for now.
A few years ago Lori started to notice Bob seemed to be slipping.
"At first I just kept thinking you're not listing to me," she explained.
And it wasn't getting any better. He'd even gotten lost in town and had to call Lori to come get him.
After numerous tests, the doctor called with the news. Bob had Alzheimer's.
"He said I need you to get a pen and paper, and I did you know. Tears were falling on the paper at the time he basically said, 'You need to get your will and trust done. You need to get your end-of-life directives done. You need to get your power of attorney done and you need to do it right now. Do not wait. Do it now'."
Lori said the first year was overwhelming.
"At this point of our lives, this is not what we were expecting at this point," she said. "You know, financially it can devastate you within a few months."
With Bob on disability and Lori working, the two find ways to communicate. A dry erase board lists the things Bob might forget while Lori's away and technology like Alexa helps by reminding him when to take his medicine.
They find ways to cope with what they know they can't control.
"'It's um, OK, here's an example right here. I was starting to say something it's gone, poof," he said. "Just boom, I'll start a sentence and if someone says one word I lose it."
At this stage, Lori already knows heartache.
"Him not remembering our favorite places," said Lori. "Because the last couple of years that we've gone he enjoyed every minute we were there, but he didn't remember. He doesn't remember 'our' places you know."
And Bob knows he's deteriorating.
"If I read a paragraph of a book, I could read it, barely," said Bob. "Won't get any of it anymore. Early on I did. There's stages."
And they both know a day might come when Bob doesn't recognize Lori as his wife. But somehow they both remain positive facing a world with lost memories, Alzheimer's and no known cure.
Bob said for others out there facing this disease, "Don't stop just keep on going and enjoy every day."
And Lori offered this advice: "My kids got me this bracelet, says 'one day at a time.' Anything else is way too overwhelming and there's no point in worrying about what might happen and when it might happen."
Every step we make now is a step toward helping families like the Richardson family and finding the first known survivor of Alzheimer's Disease.