It’s a diagnosis, that’s a death sentence.
Up until last year North Dakota had the highest rate of Alzheimer’s deaths — of all 50 states.
New numbers, just in, show North Dakota now ranks 2nd.
South Dakota takes the lead.
Lauren Kalberer takes a look at why the number of Alzheimer’s cases is so high in the upper midwest?
“It’s such a joy and such a comfort to look over in that chair, and there he is, he’s still my sweet heart”, says Leona Pearson who’s husband has Alzheimer’s.
Leona says she’s grateful, and considers everyday a blessing.
“We go to church every Sunday,” says Pearson.
Their story started in 1959.
“Came over and helped me launch a boat, he didn’t know what he was launching,” says Pearson.
She met Everett on labor day weekend.
They were married by December.
It’s their love story, till death do us part.
Everett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 3 year’s ago.
“We can no longer play games and things that we did,” says Pearson.
She’s Everett’s constant care giver.
There are good days and bad.
“He can’t walk or talk. Those are the bad days,” says Pearson.
Leona, will never understand the “why’s” or the “how’s” and, neither do the experts.
“We’re the second highest in the US for Alzheimer’s related deaths, and we’re not really sure why that is,” says Nikki Wegner with the Alzheimer’s Association.
Wegner says about 14 thousand North Dakotan’s have some type of dementia.
That’s very high, considering our population, even considering an older population.
“There are other states that have a higher percentage of older adults,” says Wegner.
She says there is no proven cause of Alzheimer’s disease just speculation.
“Ya know is it farming practices? Is it what we’re eating?”
For Leona and Everett, the “why’s” no longer matter.
“When you have cancer, you still always have that prayer in the back of your mind that it could get better, this this doesn’t,” says Pearson.
Their days are different than they we were in 1959.
They can no longer can do the things they used to, but, they feel blessed in so many other ways.
“He still tells me a dozen times a day that he loves me, there’s no replacement for that,” says Pearson.
Because of North Dakota’s high rate of Alzheimer’s disease — lawmakers have taken notice.
We are the ONLY state in the nation, with a funded program to offer free services and help to people with the disease, and their caregivers.