EDITOR'S NOTE: Names have been changed to protect the family.
A death to a family member can be devastating, but when the person is still alive and suffers with Alzheimer's disease or dementia, "it is almost like a death," according to local resident Celeste.
Celeste met Kevin in school. In 1944, Kevin went to fight for our country in World War II at the tender age of 18. During the course of the war, Kevin found himself in France and Germany.
When he came home two years later in 1946, Celeste and Kevin were married. They now have three children, eight grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
Now after 59 years of marriage, Celeste remembers happy times before their lives took on the horrible news of Kevin's diagnosis with dementia.
Kevin was diagnosed with dementia caused by Alzheimer's disease in 1996. After deciding to keep Kevin at home, Celeste had to keep her eye on Kevin all day and all night long. She struggled to keep up with him.
Kevin would throw away sentimental items of his when he couldn't remember or recognize them. He would also throw away pieces of mail, including bills and bank statements. One time he even threw away all of his jewelry.
"Anything that looked strange to him would go in the trash. I had to go behind him at night to dig things out of the trash," Celeste said. "I've never fought with him, he wasn't aware of what he was doing, because he would have never done that stuff. I just had to retrace his footsteps."
After losing Kevin once when he tried to hitchhike, Celeste decided she needed to find help. She realized that she could no longer keep track of Kevin. She couldn't keep her eye on him 24 hours a day.
Two years ago at 75 years old, Celeste made the toughest decision of her life. She decided that the only option to keep her husband safe from himself was to register him into a nursing home that could protect him and take care of him.
Kevin now can barely walk and doesn't like to talk, but he can recognize familiar people. He may not say names, but he knows people who are close to him, which is a huge relief for Celeste.
Celeste now at 77, sees her husband each day, but fears that she will have to go down to only seeing him three or four times a week, because the home is about 20 miles away and she cannot afford the high gas prices.
Celeste takes Kevin, now at 79 years old, to do things outside of the nursing home, but he is so comfortable and content, sometimes he doesn't want to leave the nursing home and he is always happy to get back.
The one thing that could have helped Celeste and her rough time is the support of a local Alzheimer's support group, she said. She didn't really have anyone to talk to and not really much help.
On Wednesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m., the Alzheimer's Association will be holding a free introductory program for families and individuals who suspect memory loss or have recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The program will be held at the Brazil YMCA, 225 E. Kruzan, and will go over the basics of dementia and Alzheimer's disease, planning and coping strategies. Class registration is requested. Call (800) 272-3900 to register or for more information.
Also On Saturday, Sept. 17, the Memory Walk '05 will be held in Deming Park, Terre Haute.