ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The number of adults living with Alzheimer’s disease in Florida continues to grow.
Right now, 580,000 people live with the disease statewide. The number is expected to grow to more than 700,000 cases by 2025.
Caring for loved ones costs more than some families can handle. The Pippens have had to make major adjustments to their lives.
At first glance, you would never know 51-year-old Theresa Pippen suffers from early-onset Alzheimer’s. Once a senior financial analyst, she was fired from her job in 2016.
“She was having trouble planning and coordinating, multitasking, keeping commitments. Those were the earliest signs," explained Trey Pippen, Theresa's husband and caregiver.
In 2018, a doctor addressed the couple's fears and concerns by asking her to simply draw a representation of 2 o’clock.
“She took that piece of paper and drew a circle and placed the numbers 1 through 6 on the clock, but not in the right spots. And she didn’t know what to do with the long hand and the shorthand to make it say 2 o’clock," said Trey.
Since the diagnosis, Trey and Theresa's lives have completely changed.
For Theresa, this means her independence is completely gone.
“I can’t drive anymore. And that was one of the best things I loved. The very first time I got into the car, I was like, 'ahhhh.' And, it’s gone," said Theresa.
Trey completely manages the home: does the grocery shopping, finances, cooking, cleaning, everything.
“I work from home now full time after explaining the situation with Theresa to my employer," said Trey.
He is one of the 1.2 million caregivers in Florida who provide 1.3 billion hours of unpaid care.
The diagnosis also means less money coming in, and more money leaving their pockets.
“Some of the medications aren’t very cheap, and they’re not covered by our insurance company. Or they were taken off the formulary list and I have to call and make a case to have them put back on. So that’s a lot of extra work that as a caregiver as well I have to go through all these challenges to get Theresa the medication and care that she needs," Trey said.
But this couple also knows they are lucky.
“Sometimes I get scared, and he’s right there. He is rock solid for me,” said Theresa.
The pair has one another and is tackling the obstacles of this disease, head-on. They say it has brought them closer and made their marriage stronger in ways they could not imagine. Beyond all, it has given them perspective on what matters in life.
“We have great walks for eons. We are always together doing things," said Theresa. "Just having everybody who we love and what we love."
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