Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Features

January 19, 2014

'You're in my heart'

The Thomases face challenges of Alzheimer's after 60 years of marriage.

(Continued)

Their relationship now has faced its biggest challenge in 60 years of marriage. Louise was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2005. Don noticed warning signs several years before she was diagnosed, but he didn’t see them then as quickly as he does now, in retrospect.

It started with little things, like the time Louise accidentally paid their taxes twice. Or when she quit bridge because she couldn't remember the suits. Once when she was in downtown Kokomo, she couldn't remember where she had parked her car. The symptoms grew to where she started wandering around, not knowing where she was.

"If I turned my back, she was out the door," Don said.

It's progressed now to the point where she doesn't remember Don or their children. She doesn't remember her past. That means no recollections of growing up in Kentucky, dating through high school, marrying Don, flying a plane, traveling or having a family.

“You can’t go back,” Don said. “It can’t be reversed.”

Two years ago, Don and his family made a hard decision to put Louise in an assisted living home.

“When I took her, knowing it was one way, it was indescribably difficult,” Don said. “It’s like driving someone to the cemetery, but not.”

Even though it was a struggle, Don believes they made the right choice. It had come to a point where he couldn’t help her while she was at home.

“People that I know are sticking with it too long,” he said. “I didn’t realize it. She’s done better here than what I could have done. Good intentions are not always the best.”

Don keeps himself busy these days to keep from getting too depressed. He surrounds himself with people as he volunteers, travels and visits with his family.

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