LOUISVILLE, Ky. — One Kentucky couple took the most unfortunate of circumstances and turned it all into a love story.
What You Need To Know
- June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month
- Barbara and Ed Staats met thanks to an Alzheimer’s Association support group
- Both of their spouses passed away after battling Alzheimer’s
- Now, the couple advocates for others suffering from the disease
Ed and Barbara Staats laugh looking back at how their romance began.
“Ed said to me, ‘Would you like to go for coffee sometime?’ And I was so shocked, because no man had asked me out in 40 years, you know, so I said, ‘I don’t know,’ and I just ran out of the building. I just left him standing there,” Barbara said, laughing.
They met each other in an Alzheimer’s support group through the Greater Kentucky/Southern Indiana Alzheimer’s Association. Both of them had been married for decades before Barbara’s husband, Al and Ed’s wife, Charlene, were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Al and Charlene ended up in the same care facility and passed away within just a few months of each other.
“So we’d see each other,” Barbara said of Al. “And I did see what a wonderful caring man he was, and he came every day, and he treated her so well, and I thought that’s a special guy.”
Ed said after both of them took plenty of time to grieve, “There was a happy ending, so called, to that, with our marriage a couple of years after the spouses passed away.”
Smiling, Barbara added, “There’s life after Alzheimer’s.”
However, their story doesn’t end with their wedding. Resources and support groups provided by the Alzheimer’s Association helped both of them so much in navigating the diseases that now, they spend their time helping other families in the same situation.
Barbara hosts special talks, giving people with the disease and their care-takers tools and useful information, along with sharing her personal experience with Al’s diagnosis. In June alone, which is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, she’s hosted nine of the talks.
Ed is there for every one of them. Barbara jokes that he’s her roadie, as he sits on standby to help with any technical issues and lovingly watches his wife.
Barbara said for the last nine years of Al’s life following his diagnosis, he worked to spread awareness about the disease.
“Of course, at first it was a terrible experience and was just heart wrenching, and we cried a lot, but once we got over all that, we decided that, ‘Ok, we need to accept this and we need to learn as much about this disease as we can and then go on and tell as many people about it as we can,’” Barbara said. “So he worked right up until he couldn’t anymore with his illness. He spoke before the legislators in Kentucky about what it did, how it affected him and how it affected our family. He was in trial studies and all kinds of things, trying to help as much as he could.”
Now, Barbara says as she continues that work, “For me, it’s a part of Al’s legacy. It’s keeping him alive in my heart and in my mind.”
Barbara and Ed add that they have a lot of respect for each other’s late spouses and those respective relationships.
“There’s no jealousy,” Barbara said. “We both still love our late spouses, of course. They were a part of our lives. But, we love each other now. It’s time to move on without forfeiting them. So we’re able to talk about them, you know, if all the sudden I hear a song and I get sad and I cry, he understands. Somebody else might not understand that.”
The Staats hope that as they continue to keep Al and Charlene’s memories alive and spread awareness about Alzheimer’s and Dementia, they can help with fundraising efforts for research about the disease.