Numbers just released from the National Alzheimer’s Association put a spotlight on the troubling facts of Alzheimer's Disease in Oklahoma.
The Sooner State is projected to see a nearly 20% increase in confirmed cases over the next 7 years.
Ron Brooks has been married for nearly 26 years. This is supposed to be the best years of their lives – years that his wife will never remember.
"She doesn't recognize me a lot. She will on occasion, but it's so rare…what we had is gone," said Brooks.
Deborah Brooks was just 58 years old when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.
Brooks says "she denied it for years, probably for the first 10 years, maybe."
Her strength kept her on the job with the Oklahoma Education Association, where she taught teachers for one year after her diagnosis. But it proved to be too much. Her husband quit his job too, in order to care for her around the clock.
"You have to be patient with it and enjoy the good times,” said Brooks. “You've got to look at every smile or when she looks at you and says she loves you."
Toni McGee, with Tulsa Alzheimer's Association, says "it changes a family dynamic forever and it truly robs you of that person, even though they are still standing right there."
McGee is concerned with this latest report showing that deaths related to the disease have jumped 123%. She explains that Oklahomans are at an even greater risk.
Toni McGee: "Unfortunately, our lifestyle leads us to be a little less healthy than other states and, so, we have a greater propensity of the disease."
A disease that has no cure, no known cause, and can strike anytime between your 20s to 90s.
For now, Brooks takes pictures – admitting he never knows when they will be the last.
"I'll just sit back every now and then and take a couple pictures of her,” said Brooks. “Those are gonna be great down the road to remember her."
Brooks wants others to know that, if you’re a caregiver, like he was for 10 years, it’s okay to ask for help.
For more information about Alzheimer's Disease or to learn some ways you can help, you can visit the Oklahoma Chapter of Alzheimer's Association.