Jenks Couple Won't 'Give Up' Alzheimer's Fight

Tuesday, November 9th 2010, 5:03 pm
By: News On 6

Dan Bewley & Scott Thompson, News On 6

JENKS, Oklahoma -- The rising number of Alzheimer's patients has healthcare workers and advocates worried.

Bob Sillman, 61, from Jenks, is battling Alzheimer's. Sillman and his wife, Shirley, go out for a walk, hand in hand, as part of their daily ritual.

"It's about a mile and a quarter, sometimes twice a day," Shirley said. "It's good exercise because if you sit and do nothing then your brain does nothing."

Bob was diagnosed four years ago. It forced him to stop driving, retire from the business he owned, and he can no longer help Shirley in the kitchen.

"I couldn't even tell you who you are right now, even though you introduced it to me," he said. "It's gone."

The Sillmans say it wasn't easy but they've learned to live with the disease. They say support groups are a big help and Bob has gotten used to relying on his wife to help him get through the day.

"She keeps me going is what it is," Bob said.

Advocates say a Silver Tsunami is on its way as more people are expected to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's at an alarming rate.

In 2011, 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day, that's 3.5 million every year. And by 2050, there are expected to be 16 million new Alzheimer's patients.

"There's a stigma around Alzheimer's, people don't like to talk about it," said Jenna Schario, with the Alzheimer's Association. "But we have to start talking about it, get your family together, get your friends together, see your doctor, call us and get some help."

The Sillmans believe they wouldn't be doing as well as they are now without their support system. As difficult as the fight is, they say it's worth it and they'll keep battling as long as they can.

"It's just like you can't give up, I mean you know what the outcome's going to be but you just can't give up. Shirley said.

The Alzheimer's Association in Tulsa has a number of resources to help caregivers, patients, and families. To learn more, call 1-800-272-3900 or check out the Alzheimer's Association's website.