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‘We’ve changed places’

Pat Morris of Farmington, always loved to read. Her old Victorian home had floor-to-ceiling bookcases in many rooms, and one of her favorite things to do was buy all the books in a used furniture store for a nickel apiece.

“She was a highly intelligent woman,” says her son Jim Morris. “I can remember saying many times to various people: ‘Don’t ever argue with her about the meaning of a word. She will get out the dictionary and prove you wrong.’”

But Pat’s sharp mind wasn’t enough to prevent a disease that would eventually steal her independence and rob her of her memories — seemingly turning her into a different person.

Pat, now 96, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease three years ago. She had been experiencing symptoms for a while, and about a year before her diagnosis she had moved in with Jim and his wife, Fina. Ever since, they have coped with the memory and personality changes Pat has experienced as the disease has progressed.

Jim recalls a conversation he had with his mom when she was in an earlier stage of the disease: “One day she said to me: ‘We’ve changed places, haven’t we? Now you’re the parent and I’m the child.’ And I said, ‘Yes, Mother.’”

Throughout the region and across the country, thousands of families are experiencing the same thing.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, as many as 5.2 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s. About 66,000 of them live in Eastern Missouri and Western Illinois.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive and fatal brain disease that destroys brain cells, which causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Patients eventually have to give up work, hobbies and social activities. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and although its symptoms can be treated, there is currently no cure.

The disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and it costs American businesses $61 billion per year in expenses related to health care, lost productivity, absenteeism and worker replacement, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Gradually, Alzheimer’s patients lose their confidence and independence. After Pat was diagnosed, her family watched as she started to become dependent upon them.

It was the beginning of a long and often difficult journey.

Memory Walk is the Association’s largest fund-raiser to help people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families. The money raised benefits Alzheimer’s programs, services and research. This, in turn, benefits the more than five million Americans currently living with dementia, including more than 66,000 who live in and around St. Louis, including those in the Parkland.

Sign up to raise money to help the fight against Alzheimer’s by taking part in the Leadbelt Alzheimer’s Memory Walk to begin Sept. 27 at Bicentennial Park in Bonne Terre. To organize a team, call Jenni Thorn at 573-760-8310 or Kevin Thurman at 573-701-7380 or Shannon Kitchen at 314-801-0440. The goal is to raise $20,000 for the St. Louis Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The Alzheimer’s Association, St. Louis Chapter, serves 38 counties in eastern Missouri and western Illinois, offering numerous programs for those dealing with the many stages and issues of the disease.  The Alzheimer’s Association’s mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. For additional information about the disease, family support or research, visit the Alzheimer’s Association, St. Louis Chapter Web site at or call the 24-hour Helpline at 800-272-3900.

The AmHeart Hospice team will host its 4th Annual Car Wash to raise money for the Memory Walk. They’ll be washing cars from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Aug. 23 at the Super 8 Motel in Bonne Terre.

Camelot Nursing & Rehab Center of Farmington will hold a croquet tournament Sept. 6 at Memorial United Methodist Church in Farmington. To register a team, or become a sponsor, call Camelot at 756-8911.

Meanwhile, the Parkland Oasis Peer Support Group will discuss Alzheimer’s and show a film about how to better communicate with a person who has the disease. The film will be shown during the group’s 10 a.m. meting Sept. 2 at Memorial United Methodist Church,  425 North Street, Farmington. The meeting will be in Room 200 and an elevator is available at the Karsch Ave. entrance. The meeting is for people age 55 and older.

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