Alzheimer’s disease is a disheartening disease affecting 5.4 million people in the Unites States. By 2025, one in eight baby boomers will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is plaque that builds up in the brain causing loss of memory, loss of speech, loss of bodily function control, and inevitably resulting in death. The research today is light-years ahead of when Ronald Reagan was diagnosed in 1994.
Marv Welstead, 95 – a Nye Square resident – has been a huge advocate in advancing Alzheimer’s research because of his personal experience with his wife Jean Welstead. When Jean was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2001, Marv felt like the whole world was coming down on him, “I was in shock. I’ve never heard of it and to think our marriage of 59 years was about to change was very overwhelming and scary.”
He was right, the time spent in the mornings chatting at breakfast to falling asleep together at night, Marv’s world was never the same. Jean’s condition progressed quickly over the 44 months Marv was able to care for her at home. She progressed to not knowing who he was anymore – she had to be fed, dressed, bathed, and eventually needed help with her bodily functions. She didn’t know day from night and would sometimes be up 24-30 hours continuously – resulting in a collapse on the floor. Marv expressed, “I saw my wife dying one day at a time, and I couldn’t do anything about it. That was hard.” After battling for eight years, Jean passed.
Many would pity themselves with the strenuous labor and mental tenacity it takes to care for a loved one with Alzheimer's, but Marv used his experience to make an impact and move the needle of Alzheimer’s research. Marv devoted many endless days and nights learning everything he could about this disease. He states, “Watching her suffer was the hardest thing in my life. Even harder than the 33 months I served in the service. I had nowhere to turn or anyone to go to during this time. I knew I needed and wanted to do something to help others who were going through what I was going through.”
Marv’s determination to find a cure lead him to document his experience and submit a 12-page journal into Alzheimer’s research. He reached out to doctors across the United States to discuss their research. After these discussions, he came up with three goals – to increase Alzheimer’s public awareness, to provide education and tools for caregivers, and to get involved in research.
To this day, Marv has been very successful at achieving his three goals and he isn’t stopping at age 95. With the help of Nye Health Services’ CEO, Russ Peterson, Marv helped found the Fremont Area Alzheimer’s Collaboration, raising over $250,000 for grants given to research, studies, and equipment that aids the detection of Alzheimer’s in patients. This collaboration group has served over 200 participants in two seminars. Fremont now has two support groups for caregivers. Marv has helped launch a class called “Power Tools” for caregivers and first responders, teaching them how to take care themselves and their patients. Marv has become very acquainted with influential Alzheimer’s research doctors all over the US such as Dr. Murman at University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), Dr. Kedar at UNMC, Dr. Warren at UNMC, Dr. Burke at the University of Arizona Medical Center, and Dr. Petersen of the Mayo Clinic.
When asking Marv what his advice would be to those affected by this horrific disease, he said, “Recognize it is out of your control. Come to acceptance the Good Lord made this decision not you. Once you are able to accept this, you know it’s not about you and you are able to settle yourself in your loved one’s world.”
If you or someone you know is affected by this disease, please contact the Fremont Area Alzheimer’s Collaboration for more information.