COLUMBUS, Ohio — For four decades now, Bev and John Schaffer have been a team. They've created memories.
- According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops the disease
- An estimated 14 million people will develop Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia by the year 2050
- Ohio is the only state that does not have an action plan for our aging population, but Governor DeWine is finalizing a task force to tackle the problem
But three years ago, John began forgetting things.
What started as innocuous senior moments turned into something much scarier.
“Our son found him walking on the highway about 10 miles away… no phone, no ID, no idea where he was,” said Bev Schaffer.
John was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s — a degenerative disease that slowly destroys memory and other vital mental functions.
According to Senate statistics, an estimated 1 million Ohioans and their families are affected by it.
As Bev describes it, it starts as forgetting your keys. Eventually, you can’t remember what keys are for.
“In the beginning, he would have a good day, and I would think, oh it’s all in my imagination. But, it wasn’t,” said Bev Schaffer.
John’s diagnosis changed the landscape of their lives.
The couple used to own a restaurant supply store in Seville, but had to step away so Bev could become John’s full-time caregiver.
The disease has also changed the landscape of their home.
Their beds are now in the living room, so John isn’t in danger of falling down the stairs.
On bad nights, Bev says he can wake up as many as 27 times.
But Bev tries to keep life as normal as possible for John —including daily errands.
There are more things every day he’s not sure of.
A few weeks ago, Bev asked John if he knew who she was. He said, “Yes, you’re my sister.”
She says it’s a question she won’t be asking again.
“A social worker from hospice the other day said, you know you need to give yourself time to grieve. And I said, you know, I’ll do that later. I’m not going to do that now,” said Bev Schaffer.
Bev and John’s story isn’t uncommon.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops the disease.
That’s why the legislature passed Senate Bill 24. It establishes an Alzheimer’s and Dementia task force.
They're charged with figuring out the state's role in long-term care —establishing research grants to better understand the disease, enumerating how much this care will cost taxpayers, and assisting unpaid caregivers like Bev.
She says she hopes the group figures out a way for caregivers to earn money. Finances are a top concern.
“You always think you have it the worst. And then you talk to somebody else and think, oh my God, I'm glad that’s not me,” said Bev Schaffer.
The governor has until February to appoint members to the task force.
In the meantime, Bev and John are chasing good days.
And keeping their vow to love each other in sickness and in health.