By Chris Bavender
Bob and Dee Husselbee met on a blind date during their senior year of high school.
“His cousin and my good friend were dating, and they fixed us up, and then I invited him to my prom and that was the start,” Dee said.
They dated for just over three years before getting married. They will celebrate their 62nd birthday in June and their 83rd birthday in July.
But life is different these days. Dee spends her time at their Fishers home caring for Bob, who has terminal Alzheimer’s disease.
“He is now entering the severe phase. It’s more advanced,” Dee said. “Some days I don’t know what to expect. The busiest time is in the morning. He is physically able to shower, shave and brush his teeth. But I have to push it again and again and again, ‘The next thing you do is this, and the next thing is this.’ Fortunately, he is still ambulatory, but he needs a lot of help.
It all started in 2010 when Bob was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment – an early stage of memory loss or other loss of cognitive ability in people who retain the ability to independently perform most life activities. daily life. It may be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia.
“MCI is a clinical diagnosis representing a physician’s best professional judgment of the reason for a person’s symptoms,” said Natalie Sutton, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter. “To diagnose MCI, doctors perform a review of the patient’s medical history and use patient questionnaires, clinical exams, and brief assessments to assess memory and thinking, such as changes in reasoning, problem solving , planning, naming and understanding.”
Bob’s symptoms started gradually.
“I noticed he was starting to have a few issues, like once while watching something on TV about Halloween and he asked me if it was before or after Thanksgiving,” Dee said. “Other little things like the difficulty in balancing the checkbook that just started building up more and more and gradually increasing.”
According to a survey published in the Alzheimer’s Association Annual Report, more than 80% of Americans have little or no awareness of MCI. This year’s special report was the first time it examined public and primary care physicians’ understanding of the real-world awareness, diagnosis and treatment of MCI and MCI attributed to Alzheimer’s disease in the States. -United.
“The first thing people need to know is that MCI is not part of the normal aging process. In normal aging, a person can sometimes forget names and words and misplace things,” Sutton said. “With mild cognitive impairment, the person frequently forgets conversations and information that would normally be remembered, such as appointments and other planned events.
“People should also understand how common MCI is. An estimated 12% to 18% of people age 60 or older have MCI. »
Dee and Bob moved from Illinois to Fishers in 2013 to be close to their two daughters and five grandchildren. Having family nearby to help has been important to the couple.
“For example, I’m at a book club, so a girl comes to stay with Bob. And I do water volleyball, so I’m taking Bob to my other daughter’s (home), so it’s nice that I can do stuff,” Dee said. “In fact, last summer our grandson Brady, who is now 13, came to stay with Bob for me while I was doing things. It was really sweet. He would plan the day, what they They were going to do. He would cook him lunch. It was really nice to see him do that.
Dee said that although there are bad days, overall she considers herself lucky.
“I just feel like with any other illness it could be a lot worse. I think Bob has a kind and generous temperament. He’s easy going even if you have to tell him things over and over again” , she said, “Some days are difficult, but with the great support of family, friends and neighbors, we are doing well.”
The annual report can be viewed at alz.org/facts.
Family history sometimes plays a role
There is no specific treatment for mild cognitive impairment. In some cases, doctors can identify reversible causes of cognitive impairment, such as depression, medication side effects, or sleep apnea. They can also recommend exercise and healthy lifestyle interventions to help improve cognitive function and quality of life, according to Natalie Sutton, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter.
Bob Husselbee, who has advanced Alzheimer’s disease that began with a diagnosis of MCI, has a family history of Alzheimer’s disease. His maternal grandmother had him, as well as two maternal aunts and a maternal cousin. Her brother suffered from mild dementia. Her sister-in-law had Alzheimer’s disease in her early 50s and died aged 62.
“I think because of my nursing background and my affected sister, I was hypersensitive to certain signs and symptoms that I otherwise might not have paid attention to,” Dee said.
Sutton said family history is not necessary for an individual to develop Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.
“It’s important to note that in the vast majority of cases, genetics increase the risk of developing the disease, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the person will develop the disease,” Sutton said. “However, research shows that those who have a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s disease are more likely to develop the disease than those who do not have a first-degree relative with Alzheimer’s disease. Those with more than one first-degree relative with Alzheimer’s disease are at even higher risk. When conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias tend to run in families, genetics, environmental factors, or both may play a role.