Living with Alzheimer’s: Charlestown family hopes to raise awareness

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CHARLESTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) – Every 66 seconds someone in this country develops Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

This year, the estimated cost of caring for patients is more than $259 billion.

More than 75,000 Rhode Islanders are either living with or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, including the Monaco family from Charlestown.

They’ve been together for more than 45 years.

Bob and Fina Monaco traveled a lot and raised two children and enjoy spending time with their grandchildren.  Now, life is much different.

Bob says Fina sometimes in her mind thinks something happened and sometimes it hasn’t happened and she believes it.

Both were caregivers to their daughter Joanne, who died from breast cancer in 2009. Shortly after that, Fina started to become forgetful.

“For me I couldn’t tell people what it is. I knew it was something not going right,” Fina said.

Fina is not alone. Symptoms include memory loss that disrupts daily life, confusion with time and place, challenges in planning or solving problems and mood swings.

And the number of American’s dealing with Alzheimer’s is rapidly increasing with more than 5 million American’s of all ages living with the disease. And nearly 16 million, like Bob, are caregivers.

“I know how it’s going to end and sometimes the caregiver doesn’t make it to the end of the journey,” Bob said. “I want to make sure I’m there to help. I want to be a caregiver the whole way.”

Support groups are available for families dealing with the disease. They include emotional support, education about the disease and resources for families sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association of Rhode Island.

Fina says not being afraid to talk about the disease is important to her because she said she “didn’t do this to herself.”

Bob says because of Fina’s memory loss, he sometimes feels like he’s mourning his wife even though she’s still here.

“I just want her to know I love her and I’m here for her,” Bob said. “Every night we say we love each other.  Maybe there will be a time it will change but you look for the little things.”

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is Saturday, September 23, 2017 at Roger Williams Park in Providence and it kicks off at 9 a.m.

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