Denison Couple Talks About Losing Spouses To Alzheimer's Disease - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Denison Couple Talks About Losing Spouses To Alzheimer's Disease

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DENISON, TX -- A new study says Alzheimer's deaths are being undercounted, and that it's actually the third-leading cause of death in America. We talked to a Denison couple who each lost their spouses to the disease before finding each other.

He spent years working as a rocket scientist for NASA, but Al Richmond says his biggest challenge started when doctors found out what was wrong with his wife June.

"They repeat things as a starter when you start to think well gee we just answered that question," says Richmond.

June lost the ability to feed and clean herself, and eventually Richmond had to put her in a nursing home, following several years as her only caregiver.

"Be gentle and be kind and do all the things that the stress that you're suffering asks you not to do," says Richmond. "I mean you become agitated you become tired you're up 24 hours, say I've answered that same question 50 times."

"He knew that something was happening and that he should not continue on in the classroom," says Betty Knight Richmond, who went through the same turmoil with her husband, who'd been a math teacher. 

"Your life partner is changing and you're not going to be able to have the life together that you thought you were going to have," says Betty Knight Richmond. "He started wandering and sneaking off and disappearing and we had several close calls."

In the study, researchers followed more than 2,000 people over 65, and nearly a quarter developed Alzheimer's. Using statistics, they estimated the disease kills 500,000 Americans every year.

That's almost as many as die from heart disease, or from cancer, which is around 600,000 each.

"He knew that I was someone important, but he did not know that I was his wife and when I would say, you know I am your wife, he'd go, no, no," says Betty Knight Richmond.

After 14 years battling the disease, Betty's husband died a couple years ago, and so did Al's wife.

The surviving spouses met in a support group and married. Now, they try to help others in their times of need. "Find out that you're not alone on this terrible journey that you're taking, that there is help," says Betty Knight Richmond.

"Basically, you deal with it day to day," says Al Richmond.

Right now, the cause of death is often listed as "pneumonia," or other associated ailments, which the CDC acknowledges is leading to undercounting.

The Alzheimer's disease support group meets twice on the third week of the each month, on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at TMC and Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. at TCOG and it is free to attend.