MOUNT VERNON — According to the Northwest Ohio Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, 1,347 individuals in Knox County —and their families — are dealing with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. While devastating for the afflicted individuals, dementia is also hard on family members and others who care for them.
“Life can change in a moment,” said Debbie McLarnan. “I’ve heard people say that before — it’s true. My hope is that by talking about it, people will realize that it can happen to anyone. And, we just want to enlighten people and let them know how much we care and how much we appreciate in this community how supportive people have been.”
McLarnan is caring for her husband of 42 years, Tom, who was diagnosed with Pick’s disease, a physical disorder of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain which can lead to behavioral changes, impulsivity, repetitive or compulsive behavior and loss of language skills.
The McLarnans’ ordeal began about 5 1/2 years ago.
“Initially this started with Tom on the day we were moving from our former house,” Debbie said. “He was up on a ladder getting things from the garage loft and fell headfirst onto the cement floor of the garage. ... When that fall happened, life changed.”
A second fall a year and a half ago exacerbated Tom’s frontotemporal dementia symptoms. He is a former Kroger manager, served three terms on the Mount Vernon City Council and was a Knox County commissioner for three terms. Due to the dementia, which may be the result of brain-damage due to the falls, Tom has lost most of his ability to speak, has poor decision-making skills and must be monitored at all times.
“It’s like being married to somebody totally different,” said Debbie. “Here’s a man who went 100 miles an hour, seven days a week, managed hundreds of thousands of dollars a week, was up at six o’clock rise and shine ... A totally extroverted personality is totally introverted now. He’s losing the ability to speak. We cannot have conversations any more. I miss that.”
To care for Tom, Debbie semi-retired from her position with counseling and career services at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, and has hired part-time helpers.
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