Living with Alzheimer’s: A caregiver’s story

Published: Nov. 3, 2020 at 1:20 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Bill Lea grew up in Jackson, and three things dominated his life: sports, family, and friends.

“He was a tremendous person with personality and being able to meet and greet people. He had that Midas touch,” says his wife, Betty.

Lea even played baseball for Mississippi State University, and also attended Ole Miss.

But when he turned 65, Betty noticed a change.

“His journey began about 12 years ago into the Alzheimer’s situation,” she says. “I saw him losing more of the ability to make wise decisions. We got him on Airicept and he was on it for about 8 years.”

Betty was Bill’s caretaker.

“As his caretaker, it was helping make his decisions, helping him eat, helping him dress. In these past two years it has been where I had to have total care for him,” she tells us. “I was still having to work full time, and the company that I worked for allowed me to keep him with me until the last six months of his life.”

The couple have six children and 14 grandchildren. Last year, their son Matt took Bill on the trip of a lifetime. The two traveled to Omaha to watch the Bulldogs in the College World Series.

“It meant so much for Matt and Bill to share that time together,” Betty says.

Bill’s condition continued to deteriorate, and Betty’s responsibilities increased.

“Toward the end he also was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and so we had to deal with the fact of not being able to balance, lose the ability to hold things. There were days when I thought I couldn’t do it, but then I would walk through it and continue on. By God’s grace, I had him with me as long as I possibly could,” Betty tells us.

In March 2020, Bill died. The family is thankful for the support they received along the way.

“Matt is running races now, and asking for donations for the Alzheimer’s Association because they were so helpful and encouraging,” Betty says. “Make the memories. Even if it’s only three hours of memories, make them.”

The Alzheimer’s Association Conference will be held virtually this year. There are several workshops for caregivers. It will be held November 9 through the 12. Click here to find out more, and to register.

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