Family Copes with Early On-Set Alzheimer's Disease - 8 News NOW

Family Copes with Early On-Set Alzheimer's Disease

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LAS VEGAS - Terri and Stewart Barquist have spent more than 20 years building their burgeoning brood of eight children. The Barquists adopted six of them at birth. The youngest two are foster babies the Barquists are trying to adopt.

While the kids have been growing, however, their father's memory has been shrinking. At just 62 years of age, Stew Barquist was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease.

"After that diagnosis, things progressed pretty fast," he said. "I couldn't remember somebody I knew for years."

Less than two years later, Terri is running the household alone. Stew misses the morning chaos, because he's often awake all night and asleep by dawn. Terri's mother comes over early to help while Terri packs lunches, plays taxi and starts dinner. Terri then heads to work, where she manages a horse therapy program for kids. It's been a huge adjustment.

"It used to be two parents, where it used to be two parents and dividing things up equally," she said. "Now, it's just one parent. Stew isn't able to drive anymore."

Stew can share memories of serving more than 30 years as a police officer, but he can no longer help provide for the family or make important decisions such as how to fight to save their home.

"There are good days and bad days. Stew gets frustrated with things maybe he didn't get frustrated at before. Loud noises sometimes irritate him a little bit more," Terri said.

Reading the paper helps fill his hours. He also enjoys watching the kids' school programs and dance recitals, but even they feel him slipping away.

"I'd love to do a memory book for him and, again, it's time. Time is probably my biggest obstacle," Terri said. "There's just not enough time in the day."

The family vacations and camping trips have stopped, so have Stew and Terri's date nights.

"That part is not there so much anymore. I'm the caregiver at this point. I take care of everything and make sure everybody is taken care of," Terri said.

Stewart is taking two medications to help slow the symptoms, but there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease. The upcoming Walk to End Alzheimer's aims to change that. The event takes place Saturday, October 26 at Fashion Show Mall.

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