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Alzheimer’s Disease A Growing Concern Affecting Thousands in Mississippi

By Rhonda Miller | Published 21 Sep 2011 09:10pm | comments
Rachel Scmitt of Waveland is one of 11 children in her family who cared for their father after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in the 1970s. The family kept him at home for 10 years unitl he died.

Alzheimer’s Action Day is to raise awareness about the disease that causes loss of brain function.  In Mississippi, 53,000 people have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. But as MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports, every family deals with the disease in its own way.

When she was nine years, old Rachel Schmitt’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She's one of 11 children and lives in Waveland. In the 1970s, Scmitt says they really didn’t know what Alzheimer’s meant.

"I witnessed my father go from a very strong, healthy man to not knowing who he was, who I was, who his wife was," Schmitt says.

The family all pitched in to care for their father. They kept him at home for 10 years, until he died. Schmitt says Alzheimer’s is a difficult and confusing disease.

"Prior to his death, he couldn’t speak. He didn’t know any of our names," Schmitt says. "The one thing I can recall being in the hospital that evening, is you know, I witnessed my mother age at least two years to every one of his year. So, you know, we got to a point where, he didn’t know who we were, and you know, we wanted our mother back."

"When we see them, it’s usually because of some kind of a crisis," says social worker Karen Brassell, at Seniors Harbor, a care unit for the elderly at Biloxi Regional Medical Center. Brassell says families and caregivers need support when a loved one has Alzheimer’s.

"A lot of times people are in denial. Family members tend to want to deny that there’s anything wrong with Grandmother. They will call her on the phone and the funny thing about Alzheimer's is they can stay very skilled socially. They can say. 'How are you today? How are the children?' But if you ask them what they had for breakfast, they might not remember," Brasell says.

After being diagnosed, people with Alzheimer's generally live from four to 20 years, but it is a progressive disease.

Today, people in Mississippi are encouraged to wear purple to show support for those with Alzheimer’s disease and those who care for them.

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Rachel Scmitt of Waveland is one of 11 children in her family who cared for their father after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in the 1970s. The family kept him at home for 10 years unitl he died.


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