The older woman asks her husband the same questions again and again.

“Every two minutes, all day long,” he said with a heavy sigh.

She watches the same TV shows over and over, as if it’s for the first time, every time.

“All day long, all night long,” her husband said.

The couple, who are in their 80s, have been together since the 1950s. They were high school sweethearts in Gary.

“Gary was a great place to grow up,” the wife said cheerfully. “But time goes so fast.”

I asked what year they moved from the Steel City into their current home.

“Oh, 100 years ago,” the wife replied with a chuckle.

I asked again casually, wondering if I had lived in Gary when they did.

“Uhhhhhhhh,” the wife replied before turning toward her husband, “Do you remember?”

“1969,” he replied without hesitation.

Every 65 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease. At current rates, experts predict the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s will quadruple to as many as 16 million by 2050. The disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only cause of death among the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. (SEBASTIEN BOZONSEBASTIEN BOZON/Getty Images)

I didn’t know the wife had memory problems when I entered their Porter County home. I visited there for another reason. When I called their home a day earlier, the wife answered the phone. I asked to speak with her husband. He wasn’t available.

“Would you please tell him Jerry called?” I asked her.

“Who?” she replied.

“Jerry,” I told her.

“Hold on, I’d better write this down,” she said.

This should have been my first clue, but I missed it. I wrongly presumed that she was simply a stickler for details or this was a longtime habit of hers with incoming calls. It was only when I arrived at their home that the husband told me about their situation.

“She has dementia,” he said in their backyard. “It’s been getting worse the past couple of years. I get the same questions every day, sometimes every few minutes.”

On the day I visited, the wife had an upcoming appointment with a hair stylist.

“She’s been asking me every five minutes what time it is,” the husband said. “I tell her and she asks again, then again.”

He has learned to be in her moment, not in the moment. It’s the difference between being kind and being right, respectively.

“I live with it,” he said squarely. “Day by day, minute by minute.”

Alzheimer’s is often called a family disease because of the chronic stress it creates, watching a loved one slowly decline into forgetful despair. This is especially true for older couples dealing with forms of dementia that dramatically alter their marriage. (rawpixel.com)

Every 65 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease. At current rates, experts predict the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s will quadruple to as many as 16 million by 2050. The disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only cause of death among the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.

Alzheimer’s is often called a family disease because of the chronic stress it creates, watching a loved one slowly decline into forgetful despair. This is especially true for older couples dealing with forms of dementia that dramatically alter their marriage.

“Would you please keep an eye on him when you can?” a neighbor recently asked me about her older husband, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a couple years ago.

There are days I notice him standing in their front yard staring off into the distance. I’m not sure if he’s thinking of the past or wondering about the present. It’s a delicate topic to address with anyone. I’ve learned this after writing many times about this complex issue.

A young girl holds a sign of encouragement at a previous Northwest Indiana Walk to End Alzheimer’s event in Lake County. (Provided by Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter)

“We know how difficult it is to discuss the symptoms, and to receive a diagnosis, but we are here to help every step of the way,” said Julie Collins, Northwest Indiana program manager for the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter.

The organization will be hosting three events over the next month to raise awareness and to foster more of an open dialogue about memory loss issues.

“Coming together in the fight against Alzheimer’s and dementia is so meaningful to our volunteers and participants,” said Katie Rizer, manager of the Northwest Indiana Walk to End Alzheimer’s. “We are thrilled to be back in-person this year, and to reach even more local residents with the additional walk.”

This additional event will take place in Porter County on Saturday, Sept. 18, at Sunset Hill Farm County Park in Valparaiso. Lake County’s “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” will be held Sunday at Wicker Memorial Park in Highland. The LaPorte County walk will be in Michigan City on Oct. 9 at Washington Park. (To register, visit alz.org/Indiana/walk.)

“We are grateful for the incredible support we’ve received from this community over the years, and especially in light of the challenges we all faced during the pandemic,” Rizer said.

Gina Moran helps her mother, Alba Moran, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2007, put on her mask. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on those people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia, according to the organization’s latest figures. (Heidi de Marco/KHN/TNS)

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on those people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia, according to the organization’s latest figures. Social and mental stimulation both play a critical role in slowing dementia, with doctors reporting increased backsliding in patients who had been stable for years.

In Indiana alone, 110,000 people are living with the disease. Another 215,000 are serving as unpaid family caregivers. (The organization’s 24/7 helpline is 800-272-3900.)

On Oct. 9, the Mental Health Association of Northwest Indiana will host a fundraiser, Make Your Mental Health a Priority Walk, at Wicker Park in Highland. The event is designed to remind people about the importance of prioritizing their emotional well-being, according to Andrea Sherwin, the organization’s president and CEO.

“This is a very family friendly, relaxed walk,” she said.

Registration must be submitted by this Friday. Cost is $30 for admission, a T-shirt, lunch, drinks, treats and an entry into drawings for prizes.

Sept. 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day, when people will come together physically and emotionally to challenge the stigma that persists around dementia. For the Porter County couple, every day is dementia day.

“We live with it the best we can,” the husband said as his wife watched another rerun.

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