In 1946, Glendon Richardson met Donna, the woman who would later become his wife, while on a date with another girl. Standing on the street corner, he asked his date, “Are you going to kiss me good night?” His date said no, but Donna said, “I will.”
Today, the couple has been married for 66 years. Life for the Richardsons, however, has not had the happy ending they dreamed about, thanks to Alzheimer’s disease.
Donna, 85, is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and Glendon, 87, is beginning to show signs of dementia.
“We had wonderful years together. Wonderful days and nights. It was beautiful,” said Glendon Richardson, an Army veteran with 30 years of service. “Some days (Donna) recognizes me and some days she doesn’t. But I just keep visiting her.”
Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, affects thinking, memory and physical ability. There is no cure and Alzheimer’s eventually leads to death.
The Richardsons now live at Stoney Brook, an assisted living and memory care facility in Copperas Cove.
Glendon lives in the assisted living section and Donna lives in memory care. For the first nine months, Glendon slept in Donna’s room.
“I stayed with my wife sleeping next to her. But then I had to move up here (to assisted living).” Glendon said, tears welling up in his eyes. “It is heartbreaking.”
In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms start appearing after age 60, according to the National Institute on Aging. More than 5 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s disease. November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.
The Richardsons’ daughters, Rebecca Guthrie and Susan Meisch, visit their parents almost every day.
“We do it for ourselves. We need to be part of our mother’s and our father’s lives, and show them our affection,” Guthrie said. “I look at pictures of my mom and I cry. I miss who my mother was. We were always very close.”
Guthrie said she realizes that part of her mother is now gone, and she does not dwell on it.
“I know that (mom) would rather be with me, but I cannot lift her,” she said. “But I can see in her eyes that she wants to say something and she’s looking for a word. When she does speak, the words come out all jumbled. But I know she has something she wants to say.”
Guthrie said Alzheimer’s robbed her mother of most of her speech and the ability to walk.
She said it helped her and her sister to research the disease so they could understand what was happening with their parents’ mental health. She also recommended support groups to family members experiencing Alzheimer’s.
“It’s very difficult, but I think it is harder on my dad because he doesn’t understand what is happening,” Guthrie said. “He asks me, ‘Do you think Mom is going to get better?’ Even though I’ve explained it, he doesn’t remember. She is not going to get any better. There’s no coming back from this.”