Alzheimer's Robs Families Of Their Loved Ones

Reporter: Shannon Samson

New Media Producer: Kerry Corum

Along with sorrow, there is empathy for President Reagan and the former first lady.

Watching Alzheimer's slowly rob the life and memory of a loved one is a painful ordeal. Here we see this from the perspective of a tri-state man who is losing his father to this disease. "One day he was driving and got lost in northern New Jersey, and the police had picked him up and we knew it was time. We just couldn't let him stay by himself anymore, that's why we brought him down here to be with us."

That's how the 89-year-old retired military man from the east coast ended up at Evansville's Brentwood Convalescent Center. Alzheimer's disease is causing Samuel Washington's memory loss, making him ask the same questions over and over again - and making his son Wayne feel guilty. "I should go visit, but I don't know if I want to go visit, because I don't want to go through that over and over, fielding those questions over and over again. Sometimes you have to stretch the truth. Sometimes you say things you don't want to say."

He imagines this guilt isn't unique to him, but to all caregivers who watch loved ones become strangers. He feels former First Lady Nancy Reagan has mixed feelings about saying good-bye to her husband.

"It's a relief for the family because I would tend to think that the person they knew who was there at the end was not the person they remembered, not the person they have all the memories about," explains Wayne.

He says he's lucky that right now, his father recognizes him when he comes into the room. He knows that won't always be the case as his dad's symptoms worsen, all while hanging on to memories of better times.

"I don't think you can prepare for it. It's part of living and when that stage comes, you adjust yourself. You adjust your thinking. You adjust your emotions and you kind of move on."

And with our aging population, estimates are that both Indiana and Kentucky will see a 30% increase in cases of Alzheimer's disease by the year 2025. In Illinois, the rate is expected to jump 14%.