Dealing with dementia - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Dealing with dementia: Eau Claire couple fights to save memories


Eau Claire (WQOW) - It could be the third leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, Alzheimer's disease may claim six times as many lives as previously thought, nearly as many as cancer. One couple in Eau Claire is facing the disease head on. Mort Sipress, who lives Eau Claire, said, "I guess we (he and his wife) have our own little Cinderella story."

You could say fate brought Mort and Sylvia Sipress together. Both from Brooklyn, New York, they met at UW-Eau Claire, professors with a shared passion in politics. Sipress said, "Between the two of us, we've become one complete political scientist."

But memories of the past began to slip Sylvia's mind when she was diagnosed with dementia six years ago. Sipress said, "We'd be sitting in the living room, perhaps watching a little television, and Sylvia would turn to me and say, 'I want to go home'... even though we were home."

A home that soon would never be the same. Sipress said, "You watch a loved one slowly deteriorating in her mental faculties and physical abilities. And in time, it takes almost all aspects of the person's existence."

It has no cure, no treatment plan and no warning sign. Paula Gibson at Azura Memory Care, said, "Dementia is actually one of the leading causes of death. It is one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States. And whereas death rates for heart disease and cancer are plummeting, Alzheimer's disease is sky-rocketing."

New research suggests Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, causes 500,000 deaths every year. That's about six times the number of deaths estimated by the Alzheimer's Association in 2010.

Gibson said, "So many people feel that dementia is an aging thing. 50-percent of people who are 85 years of age will have some form of dementia. That's a huge statistic."

Sipress said, "The professional stuff is gone. She can't do it anymore. But the attachment that I have for her hasn't diminished despite the difficulties of communicating and being with her."

For Mort, his daily visits to see Sylvia at Azura Memory Care are what keep their memories alive.

Sipress said, "For good or bad, we're married and we love each other and this turn of event is doesn't mean I'm going to stop loving her and stopping caring about her."

Researchers say deaths from Alzheimer's disease are under reported because the more immediate cause of death, like a heart attack or pneumonia, is usually the only thing listed.

In 2011, the Alzheimer's Association reported there were just under 5.5 million Americans living with the disease. It estimates that by 2050, the number may reach 16 million people.

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