ANDOVER - Right now, more than six million people are living with Alzheimer's.
It's a disease that not only has a profound impact on the person diagnosed, but on their family and friends as well, as the disorder impacts their ability to remember some of their fondest memories.
This weekend, about 1600 people and counting are walking to raise money to end Alzheimer's.
Mr. David Olson is a first-time participant in the walk in Northeastern Massachusetts this year.
Deborah is the love of David Olson's life.
"She's never needed anybody to take care of her, but now she does and it's a challenge," Olson continued, "but it's also an honor."
In sickness and in health.
"You can't control the progression of the disease, but we can control how she feels when she's here. And she's going to feel love, and cared for as long as we possibly can," Olson said.
Deborah, David's wife of 30 years this December, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's in June of 2020.
"Her mother had early onset dementia, so we went to the doctor and we did testing and it was kind of what we feared," Olson explained.
Deborah retired from teaching and since then, David has been taking it day-by-day, with help from their child Lucas.
"It seems like a second ago and a lifetime ago that it happened," Olson said as he reflected on the time that has passed since her diagnosis.
He said it's very difficult to see someone he's always known to be very active, engaging and strong, to now be so vulnerable.
Olson said he met his wife when they were in college. He also told WBZ she taught herself Russian at 31-years-old.
She also put herself through school, worked a full-time job and worked in an orphanage for children with Down Syndrome outside of Kyiv, Ukraine.
"Just has always been a real go-getter," Olson said affectionately.
"We have to help her but she still, that's one part of her spirit that hasn't been affected just really wanting to live her life and be part of her family," said Olson.
And really wanting to make sure they know how much she appreciates them.
"When you bring her dinner, she wants to say thank you. When you fix her hair, she wants to say thank you. And it's become more complicated for her to say thank you and to be precise about what she's thanking you for."
But, Oreo cookies are helping her to show her gratitude. She gives them to her family as a way to convey her feelings.
"That's how she says I love you and it's…beautiful, I think," Olson said.
David's experience and support from the Alzheimer's Association inspired him to participate, for the first time, in the Walk to End ALZ in Andover on Sunday, October 1st.
"I think everybody has a story like that. Every family dealing with Alzheimer's has a story like that. But not enough people share them," Olson continued.
"I think the more we can talk about it openly, the more we can talk about what we're all going through, that makes life easier for everybody. There's a shared goal here, and I think the more we know about other people's struggle, the less we feel alone too."
In addition to the love and support David receives from family and friends, he told WBZ the Alzheimer's Association's Website is where he was able to find a support group.
That's what makes the walk on Sunday so important, because all of the fundraising helps the Alzheimer's Association continue to work to advance the care, support and research of the disease.
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