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Living with Alzheimer's: Tucson couple shares their experience

Living with Alzheimer's: Tucson couple shares their experience
Posted at 6:39 AM, Nov 19, 2021

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Tucson recently declared November as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that there are tens of thousands of people in the Old Pueblo living with the disease. After almost a year of doctor’s visits, 66-year-old Debi Hall was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in December of 2020.

“It was really difficult to hear that and to see that highly functional person that didn’t have those skills anymore,” Mark Hall said.

Her husband says she stopped doing a lot of the things she loved, like reading books, doing crossword puzzles or sudoku.

“Some of them I didn’t think about because it just seemed normal,” Mark Hall said.

It didn't seem like much until he beat her at their favorite card game.

"She had trouble sequencing numbers and understanding the suits, so I knew there was something wrong then,” Mark Hall said.

Morgen Hartford at the Alzheimer’s Association says the symptoms for Alzheimer’s aren't always obvious.

“Some of the early warning signs might be changes in memory or thinking," said Morgen Hartford, Community Executive at the Southern Arizona Alzheimer’s Association. "But it can also be changes in vision or balance or word-finding.”

And the disease can impact anyone.

“if you have a brain, you’re at risk for Alzheimer’s Disease,” Hartford said.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, around 150,000 Arizonans are living with the disease. In fact, it’s growing at a faster rate in Arizona than anywhere else in the country. It’s also prevalent in Tucson.

“Tucson is a retirement community, we have a lot of snowbirds here," Hartford said. "Not just in Tucson but Southern Arizona as well. We estimate that over 20,000 people in pima county alone are living with Alzheimer’s Disease.

There’s currently no cure, but Debi Hall is still determined to live a normal life.

"My flowers - I go every night I go water them, everything," Debi Hall said. "Just because I can do it.”

“One of the things we decided last year was, we’re going to get out and do things," Mark Hall said. "We’re going to create some memories, because we’re going to lose some of those.”

Mark Hall will represent the Alzheimer's Association alongside 40 other bikers at the El Tour de Tucson. Here's where you can donate.

The Alzheimer's Association lists ten warning signs to look for:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

People with the disease could have any or all of these symptoms, so it's recommended to speak to a doctor if you're concerned about your cognitive functions

In June of this year, the FDA approved Aduhelm for the treatment of Alzheimer's. It's a pricey treatment, around $1,000 per milliliter, but the FDA says "Aduhelm is the first treatment directed at the underlying pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease, the presence of amyloid beta plaques in the brain. The clinical trials for Aduhelm were the first to show that a reduction in these plaques—a hallmark finding in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s—is expected to lead to a reduction in the clinical decline of this devastating form of dementia."