WAUWATOSA, Wis. — “Knowing that some time I’m going to be at the point where I’m not even going to know my wife or my family, and that hurts."
Terry Bierer has Alzheimer's. He'll forget meetings or where he put things, and he can't stop it from getting worse.
"Because there is no cure for it. It's just something that happens," he said.
His grandfather had it, and so did his dad, but that doesn't get his spirits down. In fact, it's almost as if that fuels him to work harder and help others who are experiencing memory loss. He takes classes at The Lutheran Home in Wauwatosa that are designed to stimulate the brain. The class is called Mind Effects.
"I can do things like going to classes here and stuff to try to make it better," he said.
According to the National Institute of Health, keeping the brain active can help slow down the onset of Alzheimer's. During classes at The Lutheran Home, participants talk with each other about current events, discuss past events, take quizzes about past events, analyze photos, listen to music, and do anything else to stimulate the brain.
"Keep their brains working during the day. Kind of keeping them stimulated rather than being at home," Jeff Newman, the program coordinator at The Lutheran Home, said.
While Newman and his participants know that their memory loss can't be reversed, they do find solace in being with others who have the same struggles as they do.
"If you boil it down to the most basic level, it is just happiness," Newman said.
Terry Bierer goes to the class three times a week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. He likes being with his friends and feeling like he can be a help to the newcomers. He's the liaison between the program directors and students.
"Just kind of show them the ropes and let them know you are here, and if they get a question they can come and ask you," he said.
His wife, Jo, has noticed a positive shift in his behavior since attending the class.
"It helps him to feel needed. That's a very important thing to Terry is to feel like he’s making a difference," Jo said.
The two have been married for 46 years. When Terry's Alzheimer's began to develop about three years ago, it changed their relationship.
"You lose the relationship you had with them, and it's tough negotiating how you be in a new relationship with that person," she said.
However, the two work through all the trials and tribulations. Terry credits Jo's patience for making things so easy.
"If it was me, if it was turned around, I'd be pulling my hair out," Terry said.
But the couple persists. They know tougher days are ahead of them, but they won't give up the fight.
They encourage everyone to educate themselves about Alzheimer's. It's a disease that can affect an entire family, but it's important to show kindness, patience, and acceptance to those experiencing it.