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June 21st, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Coping with a partner with Alzheimer's

(CNN) – Jan Chorlton and Barry Petersen met in a Seattle newsroom over 25 years ago and fell head over heels in love. They married and traveled the world – Barry as a CBS News correspondent and Jan as a reporter for several news organizations, including CNN. But their lives were shattered in 2005 when Jan was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's Disease – at age 55.

In his new book, "Jan's Story: Love Lost to the Long Goodbye of Alzheimer's," Barry describes seeing his wife, and his life, disappear. He joined us on Monday's American Morning to discuss the book and coping with a partner who has Alzheimer's Disease. Watch Video

Read an excerpt from 'Jan's Story,' by Barry Petersen

Filed under: Living
soundoff (97 Responses)
  1. Teresa

    Oh Barry, when you lead your new life while honoring Jan, you have found the perfect way to continue to say "I love you" to her. You are an inspiration and I thank you and keep you in my prayers. Take care.

    June 28, 2010 at 11:51 pm |
  2. Carolyn

    I'm glad that Barry has found love. The important thing is that he insures Jan's care and well-being are being looked after. It has no effect on Jan's condition whether he sleeps on a bed of nails or finds love.

    There are a lot of prigs out there who want to sacrifice so they can then judge those that choose another route. Marriage vows are for the living – those with Alzheimers have only a body – I believe their soul's and mind have already departed.

    I'm 65 and have a stash of drugs – so far I have my mind. I've begged my children to tell me early on if I have Alzheimers, so I can make some important decisions – among those will be to swallow my stash and go out gracefully. I may be a coward, but I will not take those I love down a road of suffering for all.

    June 24, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
  3. Pratim

    I like to offer a ray of hope.

    The onset of Alzheimer's disease can be prevented/contained as evident from data/statistics available from south Asian country like India. As a scientist, I have studied their diets and plan to introduce a solution (patent pending) within a few months.

    June 22, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
  4. maureen

    Unfortunately, my late husband was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers at 53. Died at 58. Horrific. Very aggressive when young. I generously donated his brain to science to hopefully stop this aggressive disease. My heart goes out to these people. Personally, I feel my husband's disease was genetic. Looking back, it is suspect.

    June 21, 2010 at 10:02 pm |
  5. JK

    I was my mother's caregiver for approximately 10 years. This was done not out duty, but out of love. She spent one and a half years in assisted living, another two years in a Alzheimer's care unit. Still I took care of her at both facilities but not on a 24 hour basis.

    This disease is the worst of all as it not only robs the person of their memory and capabilities to walk,talk, eat, swallow and recognition.

    I was very fortunate to have help from Catholic Charities and our Hospice. I was able to get out of the house if only to go to the library or the grocery store.

    There are so many services available. Contact the alzheimer's Association, State Department of Aging, your county.

    Bless all of the families and caregivers that are enduring this disease.

    June 21, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
  6. Susan Biddle

    Thank you Barry for having the fortitude to write this bitter-sweet love story and to help shed light on EARLY-ONSET Alzheimer's disease. Far too few people are aware that this terrible disease does not always wait until you are a senior citizen to shatter your life and that of those around you.
    A story like this can help others with early detection –it's very important that others know that cases in the 50-year-old range are not as rare as one might think. And the health care implications for those victims (and their familes) who are not yet old enough to benefit from medicare or even social security, are never covered by the media. The financial drain on the family for caregiving assistance can be devastating.

    I was 16 years old, in about 1968, when my still young mother starting exhibiting symptoms. The first sign was that she started burning dinners she had been cooking for 25 years and soon said she "did not know how to cook anymore." The name ALZHEIMERS had not even been given to the disease yet. It took 2 years and a lot of doctors for us to get an accurate diagnosis because of her young age. I still cannot bear to think about those terrible years for more than a few minutes at a time. She died in her mid-50's due to complications from pneumonia... a common problem with those who are no longer mobile with no personal motivation to simply get up on their feet and MOVE.
    By the time I was 21 she didn't know who I was, she didn't know who she was. She was completey vegetative within 4 years of diagnosis. Still, not that much has been discovered to actually treat them in all of these years... but at least the public understands what Alzheimers is. When we tried to explain what was happening to those around us they often said, "Oh, you mean she is crazy?" There is much more compassion toward victims now and much better specialized care-giving facilities. But we need a CURE. We were not so lucky in seeking help or a proper facility for her back in the '70's.

    My heart goes out to you both, Barry and Jan. Take care. SB

    June 21, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
  7. Ann

    Barry- I cried all through your interview. My mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's Disease in her late 50's when I was 15. For 18 years her body lived while her mind slipped further and further away. You describe it well – it is like saying goodbye over and over again with every loss while still remaining upbeat and positive so she wouldn't pick up on the negative feelings. My sister and I cared for her after my father died when I was 20. She died when I was 33. Now at 44 the repeated loss is made more horrible as I approach my 50's and worry that my children and I will have a similar fate.

    June 21, 2010 at 6:10 pm |
  8. Don Joseph

    Many people cross our paths everyday Barry, but Jan left footprints on your heart. She will always love you. She doesn't have to see you. You will always be there in her heart...

    June 21, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
  9. Rosa Flor

    I saw Barry's very touching story on the Sunday morning news program also. My mom was about 60 when she showed signs of Alzheimer's and finally passed at age 72. We family members must decide how to proceed during the time between 'signs' and death. I applaud Barry's decision to find a partner and am so happy to see his lady is so open to his situation. As I watched mom forget how to dress, how to follow the simplest directions, as her language turned vile and violent, and finally how her body was curled in an almost fetal position I felt like mom was no longer there, but my husband and family was. So I decided they were my present and my future and this made it easier for me to visit and feed mom. Once she passed it was a blessing for all of us, but I think mostly for her. She would have been truly embarrassed and sad to know her friends (most of whom left her side after she wasn't herself anymore) saw her in this demeaning situation. So Barry, be prepared for bad days but know that you are doing the best that you can and that it will make you stronger in time. Going public about your life is your greatest gift to your viewers/readers...there are those who think Alzheimer's is simply Ronald Reagan raking the same brush day in and day out because his aides kept him protected somehow. It is not. It is ugly and mean and tragic. But be strong. You'll be ok, just as my family is.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
  10. Youssef

    I feel your pain, Barry. May God help you and Jan.
    I read the excerpt and couldn't help my tears running down. I bet that would be the case of everyone who has experienced true love. I pray that Jan be healed and that my wife and friend for 30 years not have to be lost for Alzheimer.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:54 pm |
  11. Noreen

    My husband and I watched the report that Barry did on his lost love and it broke our hearts. I cried as Barry wiped his tears. His love and sharing was so very open and honest, as was that of his newfound love ... I am so thankful that they both could share with us this very special part of their lives. My heartfelt thanks.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:53 pm |
  12. Yobee

    I lost my dear mother in December to an infection following heart surgery. Even though she lingered, in and out of consciousness, for a month following a coma indicating the onset of the massive infection, it seemed at the time that she went so fast.

    Listening to the author's description of his experience with his wife's horrifying disease gives me a newer perspective. My mom's illness had a definitive beginning, duration and conclusion. I only had to say "good-bye" once. Mom was 79 years old and had lived a good life right up to the end.

    I don't know if I could bear up as well to the ongoing assault of this disease if it struck my wife, also in her mid-fifties, who's been my companion of 35 years.

    My respect to those who endure this tragedy, what a heavy burden to bear. This book is now on my purchase list.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:53 pm |
  13. Kelley

    Our family lost an absolutely wonderful woman almost one year ago to Alzheimer's. My mother-in-law was a fantastic lady and it was very hard to watch the Alzheimer's take over. The family was blessed to have been able to keep her "at home". She moved in with one of her daughters & son-in-law and they took the absolute best care of her that anyone could ever do. The whole family pitched in and to Mom, her last years were happy. She is truly missed and I think that Barry was right in his interview...this disease does make you say "good-bye" over and over and over again. So many times we would bring her home from an afternoon out and cry because, even though she had a good time, it wasn't Mom.
    To all the families out there dealing with this horrible disease – please remember to support each other, help each other, and keep each other in your prayers.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
  14. disgusted

    My wife was diagnosed at 54 years of age in 2002. I care for her at home 24/7. You can use whatever justification you like but no matter the quality of care your money can buy, no matter how many time you visit her in the assisted living your adulterous behavior is disgusting.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:51 pm |
  15. Rob

    Alzheimer's is the scariest disease if you have ever known someone slowly slip away and then become paranoid and words can explain the pain, the humility, the loss,

    June 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
  16. brian

    Alzheimer's is such a tragedy! If only the religious nuts would back off on their shrill complaining about stem cell and related research, we might find a cure for it.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
  17. Francesca

    I watched this story on Sunday morning with my Mom, and was struck by the incredible sadness of what Mr. Petersen is going through. I can't imagine being young and healthy and living a life with the person you love and having it end, not with their death, but rather with them forgetting who you are. There is no way to ever have closure and grieve properly when you are still caring for the person who does not recognize your face. I truely feel for all the families who go through this with their loved ones, as it seems the worse form of torture to watch memories fade away. Hopefully they will one day find a way to prevent people from getting Alzheimer's.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
  18. Mary

    Wonderful love story, until I heard he moved on to another partner.
    Wrenching story, but love is in "sickness and health"
    Moving on after the death of one's spouse is understandable, but she is still alive, still present at times. Alzheimer's does not rob one of all self awareness all the time.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
  19. Beth

    I saw this report on yesyerday's (6/20/10) CBS Sunday Morning. I was moved to tears. It was a beautifully done story on this truly horrible disease. I admire all involved for maintaining Ms. Chorlton's dignity and hopefully educating the public.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
  20. Luke

    We saw the initial broadcast on CBS's Sunday Morning on Father's Day, and what a wonderfully done story. My wife was in tears at the end of it, as we know people that have A.D. To know that Mr. Peterson has had two grand loves-of-his-life is a remarkable ending to what could be a tragic story.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
  21. Kathleen Dello Stritto

    Thank you for this story. My very proper mother also descended thru memory loss, depression, paranoia, violence, to dying from the disease robbing her of the ability to swallow. Her otherwise good health only prolonged her suffering. The stress as her sole caretaker took it's tole on my father. She lived five years beyond his death. My father covered up her true condition until his final hospitalization. We all have horror stories from this disease, and live with the fear that every time we forget a name or misplace our keys that we will face the same fate as statistics predict. A doctor told me that we survivors have to grieve twice: once for the person they once were and then again for their body. I agree with you that the grieving is multiplied.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
  22. Tim

    Please, anyone facing Alzheimer's in yourself or in somone you know, investigate the powerful effects Phosphatidyl-Serine has on rolling back the effects of this dread disease.

    In my family we have been very pleased with it's effects in my mother; along with other cognitive enhancing nutrients.


    June 21, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  23. Phil Sweet

    This was a very touching story that i watched on 60 minutes the other night. Barry presents his dilemma and his love for her in a very realistic way. Thanks for showing the human side of this illness- no one who has faced it ever escapes it.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  24. Sad Love Story

    My heart goes out to Barry Petersen, he was robbed by a deadly disease that afflicted his beautiful wife. Alzheimers destroy what once good, what once beautiful. I used to volunteer in a nursing home, I was assigned to Alzheimers patients. It always breaks my heart, especially young alzheimers patient. I don't know when we can find cure for Alzheimers, but I hope someday we will.

    Barry, stay strong, always think of the good times you've had with Jan before AZ robbed her mind.

    This is so sad, this is tragic.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
  25. many of us

    Alzheimers runs in my family and myhusband's too. Not there yet, but worried alread. Much love

    June 21, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
  26. DESH

    Being a career for someone with Alzheimer's is extremely difficult, and I respect him for this, but you do not have to perceive someone as lost to you if they have Alzheimer's. While I will be picking up his book once it is at the local library, I'd say that perhaps he (and everyone interested in this topic) should do some reading–Christine Bryden's (nee Boden) two books (Dancing with Dementia and Who Will I Be When I Die) tell of her struggles with early-onset Alzheimer's and how she embraced her life and found new joy, not just the sorrow that is so often associated with dementia and Alzheimer's).

    June 21, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
  27. Marlene

    My husband and I took care of my mom for 6 yrs before she died from Alzheimers in Aug 2009. Unless you have been directly affected by Alzheimers you cannot comprehend the emotional & financial toll this disease will have on your life. I had no idea what I was in for. I watched my mom go from being "normal" to not knowing who I was to being bedridden unable to speak or move. She literally forgot how to swallow. In August she slipped into a coma and died 3 days later. This disease is so horrific for the patient & family. I miss my mom terribly. I am glad she is not suffering anymore. go to the Alzheimers web site you will be stunned at what you learn.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
  28. Patricia Hensley

    My good friend's husband just recently passed away from early onset Alzheimers. To burden her loss even more, her husband who had retired from the Navy, was considered ineligible for benefits by the VA because they had no provision to treat a patient that suffered with early onset Alzheimers. No matter what she tried, or who she contacted, he was shut out. After the insurance and all other assistance was gone, she had to give up her job to stay home and care for him. She turned all this hardship around to a blessing. Eventhough she was left almost at a poverty level, she was able to love him daily and make sure all of his days to the end were a joy. God bless Mr. Petersen and may his wife's love remain in his heart forever.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
  29. Kathy

    Somebody, somewhere, somehow, needs to find out what is going on with this devastating, cruel, hateful monster of a disease.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  30. Kathy Tucker

    Thank you Barry you put into words what this family has been going through. Daddy is almost at the end of his journey and it's hard to let him go he has been this family's rock

    June 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  31. Bill Romero

    I know his pain,I lost my mother to this devastating disease a year and half ago the pain never goes away of seeing them slowly fade away and not no you any more i pray that we can together push forth research to stop this dreaded disease.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
  32. mike

    That was the saddest story on CBS Sunday morning yesterday. I was stunned at the end when the Peterson said it was his own wife.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
  33. Nancy Karlison

    I have considerable mixed feelings for Barry Petersen. I watched his storry on CNN on Sunday which ended with his new replacement partner, including the new replacement hugging Jan at the end of the story. While Jan is 55 and may or may not live until .... years, albeit Barry is welcome to discard her for another person because he has needs and perhaps support to deal with "until death do us part".
    The part I have real concerns with is Barry's making money from his wife's misfortunate health by writing a book. While I am sure it is theraputic for him and obviously Jan is an attractive wonderful person, this bugs me because if she had the wherewithall to really understand, I am sure she would feel her part-time partner is not really thinking of her anymore, only himself and is obviously taking care of his needs, however much he claims his love for Jan (which obviously has changed in more ways than one). God bless Jan for her sweetness and inability to comprehend her former husband. I sympathize with Barry, but at the same time I dislike his publication and money seeking reward. God bless Barry for arranging care for her and visiting her as a friend, but his feelings are not those of a husband, and he said near the end of the televisedstory to take it however the audience wished. If he had said this at the beginning of the televised story I would have turned him OFF. He thinks by being honest about finding a new partner, his actions will be "okay" because look what life has dealt me.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
  34. Sherrie Thomas

    Barry & Jan's story is so heart breaking. Even though Barry has "moved on", you can tell he still loves her very much. What a wonderful and caring man Barry is.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
  35. Abby Schickedanz

    I want to thank Barry Petersen for sharing such a personal and painful experience. I actually first saw this story on the CBS Sunday Morning show on June 20th and watched, weeping as Barry conveyed the tragic experience of losing his wife to this horrible disease. Jan and Barry's story has both broken my heart and reminded me to treat everyday as a gift with those I love.
    I applaude Barry for having the courage to visit with his wife who doesn't even recognize him as her husband, yet move on to find happiness with another, loving and supportive woman.
    Thank you, Barry, for sharing with the world such a personal and tragic turn of events in your life and I wish you the very best in the years to come.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
  36. pat

    When my father had to make the heartbreaking decision to place our mother in a nursing home due to advanced Alzheimer's , he visited her every day until she died , lovingly tending to her little needs. . He would never have considered starting a relationship with another woman.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
  37. Rachel McClure

    I suppose Mr. Petersen has a perfect right to write a book about the pitiful disease of Alzheimer's afflicting his wife at an early age. I'm sure he'll make a lot of money. So many well-known people have told the world about their poor loved ones afflicted with this horrible disease, stripping them of what little humanity they could have hoped to be remembered for and laying them bare before the world. And for what? We all know what Alzheimer's is, and what it does to people. But the never ending need for attention (fame) and money in this culture never seems to reach a cutoff point for anyone these days. Enjoy the royalties, Mr. Petersen.

    My husband also had early-onset Alzheimer's. Watching a strong man of 55 ruined by this disease was hell on earth. Although I have written about his life for my children only to read, I would never have exposed him to the world in his agony for any amount of money.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  38. Rod

    Thank you for this story. Losing to someone to Alzheimers must be among the worst things to happen to people who love each other. I think Barry a courageous man and know he will love Jan forever.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
  39. Sarah McCormcik

    I watched my brother-in-law "disappear" into early on-set Alzheimer's. He was 6'2" and weighted 260 lbs. He was filled with rage & very violent: threating to kill my twin sister & me too on a weekly basis. He wanted to burn their house down. He hid knives all over the house, which we tried to find & re-hide. The same with any liquid that would burn. We hid the hunting rifles & threw away the ammno. We slept with a 2 way radio on when things were really bad. It was a six year living nightmare. About a year ago Heavenly Father called him home. It was a blessing for us & him.

    Alzheimer's is an exhausting, wearing nightmare. Develop a support system. Seek out help from agencies. Take care of yourself. I wish you all the best and will remember you & your wife in my prayers.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  40. May

    What were some of the first symptoms? 55 seems awfully young.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  41. MA

    My mother was diagnosed in her 50's with early on-set dimentia as well. She died about 6 years ago . We too live in the Pacific Norwest. Our stories have so many similiarities. I wouldn't wish it on any family. It was so painful to watch my father struggle these battles as well as slowly lose my mother.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  42. Sarah McCormcik

    I watched my brother-in-law "disappear" into early on-set Alzheimer's. He was 6'2" and weighted 260 lbs. He was filled with rage & very violent: threating to kill my 4'11" inch 110 lb. twin sister and me too on a weekly basis. He wanted to burn their house down. He hid knives all over the house, which we tried to find & re-hide. The same with any liquid that would burn. We hid the hunting rifles & threw away the ammno. We slept with a 2 way radio on when things were really bad. It was a six year living nightmare. About a year ago Heavenly Father called him home. It was a blessing for us & him.

    Alzheimer's is an exhausting, wearing nightmare. Develop a support system. Seek out help from agencies. Take care of yourself. I wish you all the best and will remember you & your wife in my prayers.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
  43. hope120

    My heart goes out to Barry & Jan. It is a long journey that never
    ends up good.

    June 21, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
  44. squirreltoes

    Alzheimers is a cruel disease. The body is still alive, but the mind is not. Its very sad, and frightening that someone so young could develop Alzheimers.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
  45. Pam - Fairfax, VA

    Having just experienced this awful event ourselves, we can well and truly sympathize with Mr. Peterson. Our Mother went into assisted living two weeks ago. Although she is 92, we felt that at THAT age that she had missed the dementia/Alzheimer's pit. Mr. Peterson is an extremely brave person in this day and age to set forth on this very personal voyage. If more people did this, we would know more about this horrible disease. As it is, we knew nothing about it. But every time we spoke to someone about it, they told us their Mother, Father, etc. had had it and how awful it was for the person with the disease, as well as the person doing the caretaking. Bravo Mr. Peterson.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
  46. R. Thomas

    I can relate to your story. My mom has this terrible disease and its devestating. She can no longer talk or do things. She is essentially a shell of the person she used to be. I am not taking it well and have been depressed ever since the diagnosis. I feel for what you are going thru and what she is must be going thru. I think Alzheimers patients know that their mind is in decline and I can't even imagine what that does to you.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
  47. Kadcar

    I saw this interview yesterday on Sunday morning...WHAT a story. THANK YOU Barry.
    I cannot wait to read the book as you have passed on some valueable information as I am part of a search and rescue team; we have to sometimes deal with missing people due to this disease. The more info I can read and LEARN about this, the better for me.
    Thank you again, from a professional side and a very personal side of you.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
  48. Regina

    I saw Barry's story on CBS Sunday Morning yesterday. The story hits very close to home since my mother is living with Alzheimer's Disease. Jan's responses to questions remind me a lot of how Mom responds to questions, comments, suggestions – most any communication. Mom also responds to me in the third person – she talks ABOUT her daughter, not WITH her daughter. This was a real blow to the heart when the pattern became the norm.

    I wish I had answers. I can offer prayers for those of us family members who say goodbye year after year, visit after visit.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
  49. Rob

    Witnessing the effects of this disease and the resulting dimentia is a heart-wrenching experience. It is a tremendous burden on caregivers, and can often lead to depression and substance abuse. Good on CNN for putting more focus on this deadly disease. What amazes me is how some people are at high-risk for Alzheimers yet never exhibit any symptoms. I think one of the key components, among them diet, is maintaining an active mental lifestyle, and much of the cognitive research suggests that ways of continually challenging the mind is a good way to stave off this horrible horrible disease.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
  50. John

    This is a very touch, difficult situation to be in whether it's a parent or husband/wife. My father died 3 years ago of Alzheimer's and Dimentia, he was 83. My mother was the primary caregiver until he became violent and we needed to put him in a facility. He did better there on medication and my mother was at least able to sleep some at night. However, she went to see my father and help feed him every day at lunch and dinner for two years. It obviously takes it's toll. My mother herself now at 87 has the onset of Alzheimers but wil not go to the memory clinic for a real diagnosis because she fears losing her drivers license. And for good reason, she's getting confused now while out driving and getting lost coming home. We are driving her more and more now and dealing with the eventuality of taking her keys away soon.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
  51. Lynn Soliwoda

    It was the most touching story of real love and dedication. My husband and I were in tears. Mr. Petersen we applaud your courage and strength and admire you as a journalist and person. God Bless.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
  52. just me

    I watched this story on CBS Sunday morning. It was wonderfully prepared and very sensitive to Jan. It was heartbreaking to see how she had no idea who this man was sitting with her.

    Barry, thanks for sharing what, I'm sure, many families are dealing with. I think you're very lucky to have fallen head over heals in love. And are blessed to have found a special loved one again.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
  53. Jean Lauter

    I'm so sorry that Mr. Petersen has had to go through this with his wife.
    My mother started with Alzheimer's Disease at age fifty five and died a few weeks before her eightieth birthday. My father was so good with her and kept her home until four years before she passed away.
    It was so hard on all of us to watch her disappear into a "shell", she was still my Mom but not any resemblance to my Mom.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  54. carolyn

    My motther has passed now ; but she dealt with Alzheimers and now my 57 yr old who was diagnosed 6 yrs ago with early onset . The really frightning thing is that the symptoms can occur and you might mistake it for other things for a very long time.
    I took care of my mother and although my sister is in a nursing home now; I am still her primary caregiver. Their illnesses was and remain the single most terrifying events in my life;but I learned some very valuable lessons. First; I'm not as weak s I thought I was; second how to let the past go and do whatever you can for somebody you love. That was their and Gods gift to me. God bless Jan and Barry.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
  55. frhoads

    This is indeed a tragedy and Jan's path ought not be traveled by anyone. But may I gently remind you that you and Jan have had way more than most.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
  56. meryl shaye

    That is very young to be diagnosed with that dreadfuldisease at 55, he said he was involved with another relationship how long has he been seeing someone else, my husband died after a nine month battle with cancer I waited two years before I would even consider seeing anyone my husband had some heavy shoes to fill I was a young widow looking for companionship I loved my husband dearly I hope he does find love again after caring for his wife, but she is still living it must be very hard to see her drifting away like that, god bless him and god grant him some happines which I am sure he deserves

    June 21, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
  57. Annie

    My heart aches for all these people. Taking care of an adult under any circumstances is difficult but this must be extra heartbreaking since Barry is reminded everytime he visits that this person he loves so dearly doesn't recognize him. This has been and will continue to be a very slow death since she is still so young. Barry has been blessed with a new partner (who clearly is a very special person to take this on), who not only can support him emotionally (which I have no doubt he needs) but can love and help care for Jan, (who also needs the same). No one has any right to judge this terribly tragic situation.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
  58. JustAThot

    This is one of the most beautiful relationships I've ever been privileged to watch. Petersen's pc on CBS Sunday Morning is Emmy-worthy. Bless them all.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
  59. Ed

    I don't know how you feel, but I do know that happyness is very important. Don't feel what you did is wrong, you are in an impossible situation, she will never get better and your life must go on. Best of luck.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
  60. JS

    How much could he have loved her if he let her go and is another relationship – when she's still alive? I was touched by the interview -until the end. Now I think he's just trying to profit and he's a loser! I hope nobody buys his book.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  61. Kyle

    This is the worst thing one can fear. What is life, without memories of it? I am terrified of one day losing the memories I call upon to make me smile in times of torment. My lover, my friend, and my angel – are memories I don't think I can live without.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
  62. Pam

    I took care of my dad at home for 7 years after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He was like a little kid (a 70 year old kid but a kid none-the-less). I'd get him up in the morning, get him dressed and get him breakfast and then take him to "adult daycare" on my way to work. I'd picked him up in the evening, make him supper and help him get to bed. This went on every day.

    My dad was a single parent and did a wonderful job raising 4 kids -after our mom died unexpectedly-ranging in age from 5 to 17. He made sure we had a home, food, clothes and lots and lots of love and when the time came for me to be the "parent" and take care of him it was the least I could do, but it was exhausting.

    He eventually needed more care than I could give him so my brothers and sister and I moved him into a wonderful nursing home. He got the care he needed and I could visit and just be his daughter and not his caretaker. He lived another 5 years in the nursing home. It was agonizing seeing this strong; caring man fade away but we made the best of it and I actually have some wonderful memories from his time at the nursing home.

    We are now the keepers of his memories and the one memory I will cherish is how much he loved his family and how much he tried making every step of his most difficult journey easier on his children.


    June 21, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
  63. Terry

    This disease is horrible. My grandparents, great Aunts, and now my Uncle and Father have suffered from it, we've been fortunate in that my Father hasn't been affected too badly yet, but my Uncle is another story; he knows almost everyone but spends his days working on small engines and plumbing fixtures in his mind. My Grandparents suffered from dementia for years before they crossed over, they didn't kow us most days so I know what the disease can do.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:31 pm |
  64. Mac

    This poor, poor woman. I feel so badly for both of them. The husband must be absolutely destroyed. The feeling of helplessness must be overwhelming, and the cruelty of life is sometimes more than we can bear. I hope they can find at least some happiness in the years to come. My very best wishes to both of them.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:31 pm |
  65. Robyn

    Very sad story. My grandma has Alzheimer's. She was diagnosed around the age of 80. Within the past 7 months, she has gotten to the point where she looks nothing like she used to, can't carry on a conversation by any means, knows none of her family, and doesn't even recognize my grandfather... the man who has stood by her side for the past 64 years.

    I only pray a cure can be found. It's by far the hardest thing; knowing they don't know you,

    June 21, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
  66. Sal

    Maybe if we stop getting involved with one war after another more money could be provided for medical research and find cures for some of these diseases!

    June 21, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
  67. rosa marrero

    hopefully every body read your book this terrible sicknes dont look for race ,color or age keep working to find a cure

    June 21, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
  68. Manuher

    About 2 years ago my father was diagnosed with this illness. by the time he passed away six month ago he could no longer recognize me or anyone else for that matter. My mother suffered the most since my fathers behavior started to change for the worst. I hope some day we can find a cure for this but, until then prayers and patience is all we can offer to those whom we love and care about.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
  69. Jan

    A very heart warming story.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
  70. JustAThot

    This is one of the most beautiful relationships I've ever been privileged to watch. Petersen's pc on CBS Sunday Morning is Emmy-worthy. Bless the all.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
  71. Sean K

    My heart really goes out to Barry and Jan their families. My Dad is currently in the late stages of Alzheimer's and it has been really tough on our family. Seeing a vibrant, intelligent and squared-away family man slowly become something entirely different is the hardest part for me personally.

    It is the one disease where the family suffers as much if not more than the patient.

    My only advice is to capture as many memories and moments with her now so that her legacy can live on.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
  72. Mike

    Alzheimer's @ 55? My dad had it @ 60 and I thought that was too young. It's a horrible disease. My mother quit her job 2 years shy of her full pension to take care of him. Just a very sad story relived.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
  73. Ang

    I watched this story on the Sunday Morning news.
    And I most definitely cried, woke my husband (and best friend of 24 years) and told him how much I loved him and we talked about this story for over an hour.
    Very tragic, heartbreaking in fact.
    And very, very important.
    thankyou so much Barry, for sharing such an intimate story and bringing home once again, the true tragedy of losing someone to alzeimers (when in fact, they are still here).
    My heart goes out to you and to Jan and the struggle anyone in this situation faces.


    June 21, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
  74. Kevin Kwiatek

    My mom also showed signs of alzheimer's at 55 years of age. She was never diagnosed till years later and died at the age of 68 in 2002. My dad died in 1998 from the strain of coping with my mom's disease. My heart and sympathy go out to Barry and Jan and all who have to cope with such a terrible disease.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
  75. ronda roberts

    What a heart-wrenching ordeal! such sadness can still be seen in the face of Barry Petersen. He lives this nightmare everyday, as million of others do. Unfortunately, this will be the "disease" for which the 2000's will be remembered.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
  76. Chris

    I saw this on CBS' Sunday morning news show. Having just lost a family member to early-onset Alzheimer's, I found it disturbing that this man is openly involved with another woman. True that his wife does not recognize him as her husband, but he took a vow when he married, to be faithful in sickness and in health. Early-onset Alzheimers patients have flashes of clarity that clearly show they understand more than we think.

    I understand the grief process involved, and the difficult challenges of caring for an impaired shell of a person who is reduced to child-like victims. With this disease, you must walk a very difficult path-hopefully with the help of supportive family and friends-, but you must never forget that this is your SPOUSE. How utterly disappointing that he chose to become involved with another woman, before his wife passes. I understand why, but I find it appalling.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
  77. Terri Williams


    June 21, 2010 at 4:18 pm |
  78. lori

    I saw this story on Sunday morning......This was the saddest ever. I was so taken on how much this man loved his wife. She was so lucky to have him. I never really understood the depth of this disease until wacthing this. Best of luck to them both.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
  79. Gery L. Deer

    My parents have been married for 59 years and my mother has been slipping away from us since 2003. She is in an advanced stage of Alzheimer's and is well cared for, but it is my father who suffers most emotionally. Watching his world slip away and his high school sweetheart deteriorate before his eyes is crushing. A strong, powerful man is broken and weak. Our hearts go out to you Barry and all our best hopes for Jan.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:16 pm |
  80. Lee

    I saw this story on Sunday Morning show and I thought it was very touching. It's sad that doing everything during the day for a person with Alzheimer and they still don't know who they are, is very sad. I can understand the loss of a love one even though they are alive and their mind is lost.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
  81. Fran

    This is so distressing and sad. Jan is my age – 60 – and this is a time of life when most people start to come into a realization of their own mortality. It's very scary just hearing about this happening to someone in my age group. This is a very frightening affliction because there seems to be absolutely nothing anyone can do to either suppress or control it. A person just emotionally and mentally "disappears" while they are still physically here. In our seemingly "disposable" world, I have a lot of respect for people like her husband who step up and deal with it head-on -she is very fortunate to have someone close by to love and care for her.

    Courage, Barry.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
  82. Ken Margo

    My Father-in-law has alzhheimers. It's a cruel disease I can only compare to watching someone die slowly. There's nothing you can do about it but sit and wait. It can also divide a family because some may want to put that person in a home and some that don't. I wouldn't wish alzheimers on anyone..

    June 21, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
  83. Angie

    I saw your piece and I was profoundly touched. I too have had family members lost to the disease. It is not fair, there are no happy endings and we are left behind remember what had been.

    You were truly courageous to tell your story. I commend you for having the strength to go on with your life and not leave Jan behind.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
  84. Mike B.

    I am a registered nurse who works currently in a hospital, but spent many years working in a nursing home. I just want to say that the people who were angry at the husband for "abandoning" his wife in an assisted living institution really don't comprehend how difficult caring for someone with Alzheimers can be. Memory loss is merely one aspect, and in my opinion not the worst aspect. It destroys the person's entire personality, usually for the worst. I have seen fathers attempt to have sex with their granddaughters, mothers physically attack their sons and so forth. People who were reportedly kind and gentle their entire lives become sexually and/or physically aggressive to a remarkable extreme. Hopefully you get the point. I work in a hospital now because I "burned out" at the nursing home. If three years of that was too much for me, imagine what it must be like if it's not a twelve hour shift three days a week, but a 24-hour shift 7 days per week; not some stranger you never met, but someone you've loved much of your life. If any of Barry's friends who criticized his decision are reading this, if you're really a friend of Barry then you need to go to him and apologize for your extreme ignorance, insensitivity and lack of perspective. I suspect that other comments will be along similar lines.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  85. wilyfem

    One of my grandmother's sisters had early onset alzheimers – started in her late 30's. She was dead by her early 50's. It's an awful disease, but especially when it hits so young.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  86. Marilyn

    My mother has had Alzheimer's for four and a half years now (she is 80). This past week my brother and I had to move her from her assisted living center to a nursing home. Her mind is so "gone" they could no longer take care of her in an assisted living environment. The hardest part of the move was when she looked up at me and asked, "Are my children here yet?". You are right - the most painful thing is for your mother not to recognize you anymore.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:07 pm |
  87. Rosa

    I saw this yesterday on Sunday Morning and it made me cry. Mr. Petersen, I commend you for your fortitude and for continuing to enjoy life with your new partner while taking care of Jan

    June 21, 2010 at 4:06 pm |
  88. Ken G

    I have gone through the loss of both of my parents to this dreadful disease. First my dad, then my mom. Every time I forget something, I wonder if I'm next?
    If the day comes that I find out that I am afflicted with this cruel sickness, it will be my last. There is no way I will ever, EVER make my wife go through what we did with my parents.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
  89. Charles Burcher

    I too am loosing my wife to early -onset Alzheimer's and dementia. She was diagnosed 2 years ago at age 58. It is my belief it was going on for several years before. I have known fiends who lost their spouse to a heart attack quickly.But to watch your spouse die a little each day is agonizing. I was able to retire several years ago, with the belief I could now do things I wanted. This wretched disease has been called the cancer of the sould and I believe it. My prayers are with you and your wife.


    June 21, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
  90. Linda Holawat

    I saw this yesterday on CBS. A very sad but beautiful love story. I shed many tears over it. Bless both of them. A real tradegy. I will read the book.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
  91. jillejo

    How devestating!

    June 21, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
  92. MsGayle2010

    I know all to well how Alzhimer's can affect your life especially that of one you love. I know the whole process and it's a very hard thing to go thru and watch..Mr. Peterson, my heart and prayers go out to you and your family. It takes a lot of love, strength, and a lot of prayers. This subject always hits home and very hard. I know Mr. Peterson that you loved her through the very end.. I commend you and may you continue to be blessed.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:00 pm |
  93. Ruthie Rader

    This story touched my heart. I am 54 now and I hope that I get to keep my mind intact for many years to come.

    I am so fortunate to have the sound mind that I do today. As far as I know, there is no physiological boogie man coming to take my ability to think.

    Thank you, Barry Peterson, for writing such a beautiful book. It is inspiring to realize that while your wife's mind is shutting down, you have kept your heart open.

    June 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
  94. Jacquie

    I am so sorry to hear this and she is such a beautiful woman.

    June 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
  95. James

    Aww, that's so sad. 😦

    June 21, 2010 at 3:56 pm |
  96. Nicole

    That is so incredibly heart-breaking. Our thoughts and prayers go out to you both.

    June 21, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
  97. P. Cooke

    The interview between John Roberts and Barry Petersen was so moving that I called each of my children to tell them about this wonderful, but terribly sad interview. I have some memory loss as the result of a brain tumor and related surgery ten years ago. It is not a progressive loss, and I know how fortunate I am. I am going on-line to order Jan's Story today.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:21 am |