- Published on Thursday, 26 January 2012 22:46
- Written by Stanton O. Berg
(San Francisco - February 1998)
“TODAY, 26 January 2013, is the 15TH ANNIVERSARY of JUNE’S DIAGNOSIS of ALZHEIMER’S on that BLACK MONDAY in 1998!
June's Alzheimer's diagnosis was outlined in a reported submitted by the Neuro-psychology Laboratory of the University of Minnesota under the date of 26 January 1998 and authored by Deborah D. Roman, Psy.D, Diplomate in Clinical Neuro-psychology...the three (3) page report ends with the following conclusions:
"This 70 year old woman is reporting memory decline. This neuro-psychological evaluation reveals grossly intact intellectual and executive abilities. Drawing constructions are fairly well preserved and fine motor dexterity is only slightly below normal levels. The main abnormal findings were language deficits (reduced comprehension, word finding difficulties, and slight problems with repetitions) and a fairly severe recent memory impairment.
This pattern of deficits is most consistent with early stage Alzheimer's Disease. As such, further cognitive decline is expected. The current assessment may serve as a baseline for comparison, should her cognitive status worsen in the future, as anticipated. Since most cognitive abilities are at or very near baseline levels, at this time she remains fairly functional and to some extent is able to compensate for the memory problems."
(Home - 6025 Gardena Lane - June 1999)
Note: It should be understood that June herself initiated the examination and resulting diagnosis because of her concern for and with memory problems she had personally noted...The above University of Minnesota diagnosis was later confirmed by examinations and testing at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. This is very unusual for a victim to request their own testing be done...but then June was a very unusual lady...the kind one meets up with only once is a lifetime!
This report by the University of Minnesota was conveyed to June and I by way of her primary doctor (Dr. Daniel Stein - Geriatrics and Internal Medicine) for review and discussion with us...June initially seemed stunned and depressed and commented that "this was not what I wanted to hear"...added that "some day I will probably have to be in a nursing home"...However after a short time that same day, June started joking with one of the staff psychical therapists. (June, as a weekly visitor to a nursing home, knew all about nursing homes and the residents of such homes!)
(Maui, Hawaii - January 2000)
I was not able to discuss the diagnosis with the children for some time without breaking down and weeping. I finally used a letter to them on 20 June 1998 as a means of advising them...my letter to them has this explanation:
"I am taking this means of advising you, because I think you as immediate family members should know, and because I am unable to discuss it calmly with you at this time...I only ask that you be considerate of Mom and patient with her when she seems not to recall something that you may have recently discussed with her. Her long term memory however, seems to be good and better than mine. She frequently can recall happenings of many years ago that I need help in refreshing my memory. I would assume that if she wants to discuss this matter , she will bring up the subject. She does not know that I am bringing this sad news to your attention. I would think that this information, at least for the time being, should be kept confidential among the immediate family and not be passed on to the grandchildren or other relatives. Lastly, keep in mind that overall, it is only in initial stages and the symptoms are mild. Hopefully it will be years before an real serious symptoms surface..."
This first letter to the children started what would later become a steady series of letters to the children over the years to update them on their mother June and her journey into the darkness of Alzheimer's...the letters (arranged in yearly order) can be found on this website under the heading of "Letters" on the top navigation strip or simply click this link:
June and I were able to spend the first six (6) years that followed her diagnosis, doing all of the things that we had wanted to do but had previously postponed doing. We took the trip to Hawaii and then to Branson as recommended by our friends. We made a final goodbye trip to London, June's favorite city and our friends the Bruce's at Bexley, Kent. That last London trip coincided with the Sherlock Holme’s festival in London and we participated in a reception at the House of Lords on the Thames. We also traveled to and attended every scheduled forensic conference in the US and Canada for the next few years! We made approx. 35 trips together until Alzheimer’s finally shut us down in year seven (7) of June's journey into the shadows of Alzheimer's.
(Home - 6025 Gardena Lane - May 2002)
For the first seven (7) plus years I took care of June at our home. The first 5 years of these years were relatively easy years that only required accommodation for her short term memory problems. We continued to travel extensively and did the many things we had put off in past years. In Years 6 and 7 the disease started closing in on us as we saw June’s personality changes and eventually hallucinations and behavioral changes. In year 8, June went into a nursing home. As the disease progressed she had seizures, lost ability to walk or talk, had difficulty swallowing, eating, and became incontinent. During the last year and a half, she rarely opened her eyes or even responded.
(Historic City Tavern, Philadelphia - 2003)
After a long and weary struggle with Alzheimer's of almost eleven years, June lay like a wounded and exhausted soldier on a battlefield. June passed away on Thursday October 23rd, 2008 from aspiration pneumonia, a common Alzheimer's complication.
June gave me a lifetime of unconditional love during our 56 year’s marriage and a life with only the regret that it is now over and that June has had to suffer the horrors of Alzheimer's.
I owe June and God an unending debt! Her passing was as if a most beautiful symphony that played during our life together, had now ceased to exist!
(The Wellstead - November 2005)
Before June's Alzheimer's diagnosis our world and her character and personality were represented by a vast sea of bright and beautiful lights. After her Alzheimer's diagnosis, these bright lights all begin to slowly dim. As June slowly slipped deeper into the shadows of Alzheimer's, the lights gradually flickered out one by one. Eventually the time came during the last two years of her life, when the brightness that marked our world and June’s life was replaced by one of darkness.
God mercifully took June home on the 23rd of October 2008. June's passing leaves me with an emptiness that can never be filled!
I am reminded of the lines from the Poem of "Love" by John Frederick Nim:
"For should your hands drop white and empty - All the toys of the world would break."
It was in London Circa 1974 that June taught me how to use the London Underground system for getting around and about London. June who loved London, had early on, taught herself how to get around London on their double-decker buses and the London Underground. I had been using the cabs because I thought the London underground system was too complicated and inefficient to get around the city. I remember so well that fall day that June took me to the underground station near our hotel where she showed me and explained the signs at the entrance on how the underground operated. June then gave me a practical demonstration. Thereafter the underground became my primary transportation in London.
I know that at age 84, I do not have many more years, months or days left. I just hope that when the “Bell Tolls” for my final day, that God will send June to once again, "show me the way!"
(The Benedictine - November 2007)
The top photo was taken at San Francisco in February 1998, less then 30 days after June had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. We were attending a conference of he American Academy of Forensic Science at the time. June is still June with her signature smile and friendly personality.
The second photo is of June and I during my birthday in June 1999. June is in a fun-playful-silly mood. June is now in the 2nd year after her Alzheimer's diagnosis. Photo is taken at our home at 6025 Gardena Lane in Fridley, MN.
The third photo is of June and I during our visit to Maui, Hawaii in January 2000. Starting an evening Luau and other festivities! This was the start of June's third year after diagnosis.
The fourth photo was taken in May of 2002 at our home at 6025 Gardena Lane during the 5th year of June's journey into Alzheimer's. June was still doing fine and appeared to still be in the early stages of the disease. This was also the year of our 50th wedding anniversary. Compare to the top photo to see the dramatic change in June's appearance.
The fifth photo was taken in May-June of 2003 with June standing in front of the Historic City Tavern in Philadelphia, PA during the annual forensic conference of the Association of Firearms Examiners. This old tavern was a favorite dining place for Geroge Washington and Thomas Jefferson. This would be the last year that June would be able to attend such conferences outside her home state of Minnesota. June at this point was in her sixth year follwoing her Alzheimer's diagnosis. In the following year we would see Alzheimer's starting to take control of June's personality and our life together would be dramatically changed.
The sixth Photo was taken in November 2005, at the Wellstead of Rogers, an Alzheimer's facilty. June was in the 8th year of her journey into Alzheimer's. June's eyes and face have lost their normal brightenss and color and appear to be faded and without sparkle. This was a year of personality change with periods of hostility and anger...During all our previous years of marriage I could not recall a single cross word or display of anger. Alzheimer's had taken control of June!
The bottom photo (Just above these notes) was taken at the Benedictine Health Care Center's Alzheimer's Villa in October of 2007 by Jim Gehrz a photographer from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The "Star" was doing a feature article in a regular series called "The Duet". June at that time was into her 10th year of Alzheimer's and was in the late stages of the disease. June was non responsive most of the time and sat with her eye's closed. June held a hand made Walnut Christian Cross in her right hand, giving it up only at bedtime and nap time. This Cross now remains with June at "Lakewood." Those were dark and hopeless days in which the end of June's life was in sight.
Mary Darker - Ballymore Eustace, Ireland - (21 January 2013): "you scribe it so well Stanton you open our eyes and share with us what was one hell of a journey."
Dianne Cogar - Springfield, Ohio - (21 January 2013): "You're a natural ... You have a beautiful way with words... and they all came straight from the heart. Thanks for sharing."
Shannon Mahoney - (21 January 2013): "...may I say you are a...writer. I read about your journey placing June into the nursing home a couple of weeks back and was grateful for your sharing. It helps to know some of the challenges that go along with caring for a loved one, some of the stages and how they may appear...but I have to say, if it were my husband I believe I'd experience more of what you have...it's different when it's your spouse. I can only imagine...again thank you."
Bobby Ewing - Jerome, Pennsylvania- (21 January 2013): "Great great story."
Alzheimer Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, Inc. - St. Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada - (22 January 2013): "Thank you so much for sharing! It's always so interesting reading about personal experiences with Alzheimer's disease, and it shows how every person is so different. Reading about how others are dealing and have delt with the disease can be a great resource for someone journeying with Alzheimer's disease, so thank you very much for passing this along! -Amelia White, Events Coordinator"
Desiree Tilley - Croydon, Pennsylvania - (22 January 2013): "Beautiful woman. Such a wonderful Bio on your life together."
Kat Schrack - (22 January 2013): "Thanks for sharing. I loved how you and June went about doing things you had postponed, grasping life with both hands, and squeezing out all the joy you both could hold. That is beautiful and inspirational!"
Marion Reinartz - Cologne, Germany - (23 January 2013): "Thanks for your life-story and those beautiful Pictures, exspacielly that one of Mauii...your lives were so rich with all the up and downs ...I read your love Story and however, I suddenly got into my mind this old church-song "Wir sind nur Gast auf Erden"...We only are guests on earth...so it is and finally it counts the days we've been in Love...that is so true...I wish you being well, Stan...look after yourself...all the best to you and your Family...the pictures are very beautiful ...Love never ends, doesn't matter, what happened ... "
Catherine Jones-Hatcher - Richmond, Virginia - (23 January 2013): "Well done, as usual...!!! By now, I feel as if I KNOW June...and this makes me very sad. Like June, my own mother was the one who took herself to a neurological exam. She took many mini-mentals... and they eventually became a source of much frustration and fear for her. Like June... she knew it was happening. I must admit... for quite sometime...I was in denial. thank the Lord , He gave her an escape from the long and dark journey you both traveled when He took her with a brain aneurism. She suffers no more...and neither does your beloved June..."
Ursula Zarecki Sypniewski - Toms River, New Jersey - (23 January 2013): "Love the picture! June looks beautiful!."
Bryn Sineath - Hot Springs, Arkansas - (25 January 2013): "I very much appreciate what you have done, ...for June and your help to send out information on Alz's...My mother was not properly diagnosed. She was diagnosed with just "dementia". "Modest Dementia" then "Advanced Dementia" when she got worse. Her signs were consisted with your June's heritage, her first nursing home, the staff said that she clearly had Alz's. When stroke struck her last November that made it worse for her condition..it was due to her being so dehydrated severely leading to that stroke. On her death certificate. it stated that her death was caused by stroke! Two days before she was sent to the hospital...I sat with her to try to feed her and when I tried to give her a drink she all of a sudden took a hold of my hand and looked into my eyes and said clearly "Don't!...I am on mission to see that our government has funds for Alz's. I am still so disgusted that she wasn't properly diagnosed and stated on her death certificate being a stroke as cause of her death. I feel so blessed to have had a close relationship with Mom. Unfortunately she started to act strange and mean...at that time I didn't know anything about dementia and Alz's so I moved out into a townhouse close by. Six months later she was diagnosed with dementia and her doctor said she could not live on her own anymore, nor drive so she moved in with me, I finally understood why she acted like she did... If her husband of 30 years was still alive he would have done like you did for June as he worshiped the ground she walked on. When she got worse and worse I had to have her placed in a nursing home for 24/7 nursing skill which broke my heart, but I spent as much as I could with her, brought her home with me. She still remembered who I was...two days before her death under Hospice care she reached out to me when she saw me walk in... she flew away when I came home to feed my pets. I still miss her so much. One month after her death I had a wonderful dream of her! She looked much younger and happy. Held my hand...told me that when she left her body she was carried by angels to a place and wrapped in a cocoon for healing and then unwrapped her!
Lora Rushing Robinson - Benton, Louisiana - (25 January 2013): "Thank you very much, beautifully written, as always, I think that bright and beautiful light was only extinguished for a moment, back then, and now still shines brighter than before....and the symphony still plays...she awaits, dont worry..."
Marie Miller Edwards - Tavares, Florida - (25 January 2013): "God bless you my friend! June is looking down on you and smiling!!"
Cindy Post Howard Turner - Cartersville, Georgia - (28 January 2013): "I just want to say I am sorry for.your loss. Your blog of Junes journey was very special. I am a C.N.A. and have been for 30+ years. I just read your blog on yours and June's walk with Alzheimers. I specialized in this disease and have watched how it not only affects the patient but their spouse, kids and friends. I miss working with these special patients. I learned so much from them and the family. I learned to be more patient and become more active as an advocate for them. Some don't have loving families so they need a voice and that's where we as healtcare workers come in. I just wanted to say God bless."
After battling Alzheimer's for almost 11 years, an exhausted June was finally called home by God on October 23rd, 2008. Her funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star in October 2008 can be seen on this website under the "In Memoriam" label - Click on: