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Your Healthy Family: The heartbreak of an Alzheimer's Diagnosis

Fox 4 Anchor Lisa Greenberg shares her Grandma's story about her husband being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
Posted at 7:51 AM, Apr 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-10 07:51:15-04

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — More than 6 million people in our country have Alzheimer's disease. Fox 4 Morning News Anchor Lisa Greenberg is sharing her family's heartbreak that came with an Alzheimer's diagnosis: her Grandma's husband in 2020.

“You don't know anything till you live it," Lisa's Grandma, Terry Wilgus Knisely, said.

Terry and her husband Stanley got married in August of 2014. They were both widowed. They retired and loved to travel.

"Oh, we were on the go all the time," she said. "We went on several cruises every year, became snowbirds and went back to Indiana where his hometown was, and spending time in Florida every winter with my family."

But during one of those summers in Stanley's hometown in Indiana, Terry said she noticed something strange in her husband.

"We got ready to meet some friends at lunch at a town about 20 miles away. And as we were getting ready to go, he said, 'Now how do we get there?' And I laughed because I said, 'This is your home area, you know how to get there. We've been there before?' And he said, 'No, I'm not kidding, I really can't remember how to get there.'"

That's when she said her antennas started going up.

“I mentioned it to the doctor at his regular checkup. And the doctor suggested that he see a neuropsychologist and have a baseline test," Terry said. "And then they do the test again in two years and see where things have gone.”

After his initial test, she started to notice even more changes in her husband.

“When we were in groups, he just didn't really join in the conversation. I think he realized that he couldn't keep up," she said. "Unable to remember names that he should remember. He could remember things way back, but the short term memory was what was becoming a problem."

In late summer of 2020, Stanley was had another cognitive test done.

"And they said there had been a significant decline," Terry said.

That's when doctors told her Stanley had Alzheimer's.

“Alzheimer's itself can only be diagnosed with an autopsy of the brain to find out if the plaque is in the brain. But they're using these tools to predict," she said.

In 2022, when Stanley was tested again, his Alzheimer's was progressing quickly.

“I said, 'Is that what you would expect?' And he said, 'Actually it's twice what I would expect,'" Terry said.

Since that test, she said she noticed even more of the man she loves disappearing.

“They call it the long goodbye for a reason," she said.

Last fall, it came to the point where Terry couldn't keep up with the demands of taking care of Stanley on her own. And with the support of her family and his, she transitioned him into a home that specializes in caring for people with dementia. And she can visit whenever she wants.

“Probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Because it's someone that you love. And you want the best for them," she said.

For more information on Alzheimer's Disease and the resources available, you can call the Alzheimer's Association's 24/7 helpline: 1 (800) 272-3900.