“We told him, ‘Dad, just look down.’”

 In Impact1

Why I Walk to End Alzheimer’s: Neal Newhouse, Corporate Sales, Transportation Impact

About five years ago my dad got diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s. We lost him last December. He was 79; he would have been 80 in July. Dad was eldest of four; he had three sisters.

I have been doing this walk for several years now. It’s an awesome organization and a great cause. I did it in Emerald isle twice, and Raleigh last year because my parents lived in Wake Forest.

We’ve raised thousands of dollars. My sister and Pap’s Peeps. My dad had eight grandchildren and they called him Pap. They were all close physically. The girls were really bonded with my dad.

The blessing was that the last six months of his life he was home, and we were there for him. I went to visit him whenever I could, got him out of bed and went for a walk. He always smiled, he was never mean, he went quietly.

Four to five years prior to his passing we noticed the first signs.

He was a lector in church. Every week he would read a message. He was one who would never look down. He’d look down maybe once, but otherwise he was always looking out at the audience. We noticed he was forgetting the words. We told him, “Dad, just look down.”

Then a week or two later he was forgetting some things, and we got him tested. It was very quick, and he actually did really well on the tests. They are hard tests! I was thinking I don’t know how well I would do!

After some time he got weak. We would play golf and he was falling over a bit. It went on like that for a couple of years, but it wasn’t that bad.

Then the third year he had seizure and fell in the driveway. He was in hospital for seven days because he had some internal bleeding, then he went to a rehab facility for two weeks to learn how to walk. He came out almost walking by himself. It was amazing.

When he came down here we did puzzles. We put quarters, pennies, and nickels all together, and we said, “Pick the pennies out.” It was sad. Here was my dad 79 years old and here we were treating him like a child, although he didn’t know we were treating him like a child.

It’s crazy, because really with your brain. . . My dad was so smart; he read all the time. It’s so strange how it hits you.

In February last year, it had got to the point where he couldn’t get up, couldn’t go to the bathroom himself, and we had to get nurses. My mom was trying to wash him.

It’s awful for the person taking care of them. My mom was burned, drained. If you don’t have the right benefits, you can’t get the right nurses.

In the end, his kidneys failed. He couldn’t eat or drink, but he held on for eight days. He was a fighter.

My mom and dad were married for fifty-six years.

I’ve done a lot of research on Alzheimer’s. In the U.S. every 65 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. In 2050 it could go to every 33 seconds.

Every year half million people die from it.

I walk to raise awareness. If we can raise awareness, maybe we can get more federal funding to fight this disease. It’s the least thing the government is funding.

I and the other Pap’s Peeps are walking — I’ll be wearing my Pap’s Peeps T-shirt!

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