As Walk to End Alzheimer’s Disease Approaches, Wife Shares Husband’s Journey with Alzheimer’s Disease
About halfway through his three-year battle with dementia, Tony Martin, an ordained deacon of the Catholic Church, told his wife Loree that he received a visit that day as she was at work. Loree asked who had visited her and Tony replied, âJesus came, but I told him I couldn’t leave you.
Less than a year passed before Tony finally lost his battle on June 13, 2017.
In the summer of 2014, Tony started complaining about forgetting names and phone numbers.
âHe knew something was wrong,â Loree said.
After two days of cognitive testing in Lewiston, Idaho, with one of four neuropsychologists practicing in the Northwest at the time, Tony was diagnosed with mild cognitive retardation at the age of 64.
The Martins returned home to Bigfork, saw a neurologist, and a CT scan was ordered. Tony’s has been shown to have frontal lobe dementia, which usually progresses rapidly and can cause extreme changes in behavior and personality.
Loree became Tony’s caregiver while running their business, Flathead Insurance, which they were partners in.
âI never thought about it,â Loree said of the responsibility of running the business while taking care of Tony. “That was exactly what I was going to do – take care of him.”
She took control of things, insisting that he wasn’t driving, which upset him.
âBut Tony was aware of the changes that were happening to him,â she said. He agreed to have someone stay with him while Loree was at work.
âA year later, Tony was obsessively rearranging every key to the house,â Loree said, a sign that he was developing repetitive and compulsive behavior.
DEMENTIA, FROM of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form, is a degenerative brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and the ability to reason. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, changes in the brain can begin 20 years or more before symptoms begin. Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia disrupt the way electrical charges move and the activity of neurotransmitters. Eventually, this leads to the death of nerve cells and the loss of tissue throughout the brain.
The Alzheimer’s Association website indicates that over time, from just four years after diagnosis to age 20, patients will begin to lose the ability to remember names, the right word, perform simple tasks and misplace objects. Then they will forget parts of their own personal history, become more and more confused, start to withdraw socially and mentally, become paranoid, or develop compulsive and repetitive behavior. In the later stages of their illness, the website says, they may not recognize family members, they may have difficulty eating or swallowing, controlling their movements, and losing the ability to walk or communicate.
In Tony’s case, he was able to continue serving as a deacon for the St. John Paul Catholic Church in its prison and hospital ministries until 2015.
âHe was able to get up every morning, take a shower and get dressed for the day,â Loree said. âWith me he was very calm and cooperative. But, as this disease progressed, and over the last nine months of his life, it became apparent that he would not cooperate with other people – only me. He would become confused and frustrated.
One day, while still living at home with the home care aide, Loree got a call from the caregiver who told him Tony was sitting outside in the rain and refused to enter.
âI came home and he was there. I asked him, ‘Tony, why are you sitting here in the rain?’ and he said, âBecause I can. “
In March 2017, it was necessary to place him in a local memory care facility.
âThe caregivers were having a hard time with him,â Loree said. âHe could be so docile and cooperative and then all of a sudden go away. He was in a strange place and his perception of the antipsychotic drugs he was being given was that they were “evil”.
Later that month, Loree said, Tony was sent to the St. Peter’s Behavioral Health Unit in Helena for three weeks to try to balance his medications to keep him calm. She was prescribed Haldol, Loree said, which in her case caused tremors and lack of muscle control. When he returned to the memory care facility, he was in a wheelchair.
âPeople need to know how debilitating this disease is,â Loree said.
LOREE BREASTFEED every day to see him and would make the sign of the cross on his forehead, telling him to “keep your eyes on Jesus and when he takes your hand, go with him”.
One day after he was placed in a hospice, the hospice nurse entered.
âShe was a wonderful woman,â Loree said. âI told her Tony was cranky today, and she asked Tony if he was feeling cranky. He nodded, so he still got it right. Then he picked up his chair and slammed his body and the chair against the wall.
From the start, after his initial diagnosis, Tony was talking about the things he wanted to do while they still could.
Maybe he was more tolerant than I was, âsaid Loree. âI continued to fight to find someone in the medical field who could slow the progression of the disease.
âI didn’t know how fast the turn would be. I thought we would have four or five years.
For Loree, the hardest part of it all was watching the devastation the disease had taken on her husband.
âHe was a very bright man. He was playing chess online. He was passionate about fly fishing. He could no longer tie the flies. It was hard to see all the things he loved and couldn’t do that were taken away from him.
During the years that she cared for her husband throughout his illness, Loree didn’t speak much about her experience with other people, except for a friend Tony would call occasionally and who would come by. right away if he needed her.
âThe general public is uncomfortable with dementia unless they have seen it first,â she said. âPeople don’t understand the disease.
That’s why she and her team will be taking part in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Disease this Saturday in Kalispell.
âThe walk is very special because we have to draw attention to everyone who has dementia,â said Loree. âIt’s no different from any other disease. Life is so changed and there is no cure. We have to fight for one.
Community Editor-in-Chief Carol Marino can be reached at 406-758-4440 or [email protected]
Walking to end Alzheimer’s disease
Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s Disease is the world’s largest fundraiser for the care, support and research of the Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s disease.
Join the Kalispell Walk this Saturday, October 2 at the Gateway Community Center parking lot, 1203 US 2 W. Entertainment begins at 9:00 am Opening ceremonies are at 10:30 am.
The Kalispell Walk will implement safety protocols including physical distancing, contactless check-in and hand sanitizing stations. As per CDC guidelines for outdoor environments, walk participants should either be vaccinated against Covid-19 or wear a mask when in a crowded area. Although there is no registration fee, participants are encouraged to raise funds that enable the Alzheimer’s Association to provide 24/7 care and support and to advance research. towards methods of prevention, treatment and, ultimately, a cure. Register online at act.alz.org; or contact Kellie Danielson of Loyal Care In-Home Assistance at 406-752-0146.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 50% of general practitioners believe that the medical profession is not prepared for the growing number of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. In the United States, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia increased by 16% during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Recent research in Alzheimer’s science has found new strategies for earlier diagnosis, including brain imaging, blood and urine tests, biomarkers, and genetic risk profiling.
While there are many common symptoms of age-related aging, such as forgetfulness, misplacing objects, or even loss of interest in social or family obligations, familiarize yourself with the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Early detection is essential. Get examined by a doctor. Learn more at https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/10_signs.
Visit www.alz.org for a list of resources, Alzheimer’s / dementia workshops and online tools.
A Dementia and Alzheimer’s Support Group sponsored by Emmanuel Lutheran Communities meets from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the third Monday of each month at Buffalo Hill Terrace, 40 Claremont St., Kalispell. For more information, call Hannah Brown at 406-858-0653.