Mike and Carol Daly are married for 53 years. Like more than five million American families, they have dementia. Carol suffers from Alzheimer's, the main type of dementia.
What makes this story so unusual is that we interviewed Mike and Carol almost every year for the past 10 years when Alzheimer's took over her brain. Although this is very personal, they wanted us all to see the devastating effects of Alzheimer's in each of them for over a decade.
When we first met Carol and Mike in 2008, Carol was active, conversational, and determined to make the most of her failed memory.
Dr. Jonathan LaPook: How old are you now?
Carol Daly: 65. 65? Yes. I think so, right?
Mike Daly: Yes.
Carol's memory had been stained for several years.
Mike Daly: I noticed it at home. And I joked about it to my kids. I would say you know, "I think she has Alzheimer's as she forgets everything."
Then a doctor told her that she really had Alzheimer's. Mike's mother had had it. Now his wife
Dr. Jonathan LaPook: Carol, when you heard the word "Alzheimer's", what did that matter to you?
Carol Daly: I was devastated. Because I saw his mother, what she went through. It is terrible. She walked through the streets in the middle of the night. And we had to bring her home.
When Carol's memory worsened, she lost her job at a bank and lost her ability to do much that she had always done at home.
Dr. Jonathan LaPook: Were you a good cook in the past?
Carol Daly: Yes.
Mike Daly: Oh yes.
Dr. Jonathan LaPook: What happened?
Carol Daly: It has stopped. It – I just could not do it.
Dr. Jonathan LaPook: What can not you do?
Carol Daly: At first I did not know what to do. The Meatloaf
Mike Daly: Oh, the meatloaf. That was the –
Carol Daly: It was awful. Could not eat it.
Dr. Jonathan LaPook: Because?
Carol Daly: I do not know what I did with the ingredients or whatever. They just could not eat it.
Dr. Jonathan LaPook: And you're tearing up. It's exciting for you.
Carol Daly: I do not want to be like this. I really do not. But …
"When we took our oath, it's good or bad, so I signed in."
Unable to concentrate, Carol had to give up reading and movies. Hard for someone who had worshiped Clark Gable
Carol Daly: Ooh, so handsome
Dr. Jonathan LaPook: So you remember that?
Carol Daly: I know that (laughs)
They told us that Carol's illness had brought them closer, but they feared the future.
Carol Daly: I fear my fear maybe to get worse. Worse, you know? And it would probably.
And it did. Almost three years later, when we returned, Carol had no idea how old she was.
Carol Daly: 80? I dont know.
Dr. Jonathan LaPook: You are actually 67
Carol Daly: 67
Dr. Jonathan LaPook: 67.
Carol Daly: Yes?
And what about her favorite actor?
Dr. Jonathan LaPook: Do you remember Clark Gable?
Carol Daly: Oh yes. That was my-yes.
Dr. Jonathan LaPook: Who is he?
Carol Daly: Oh, (sighs) (laughs) I – I do not know now.
Now Mike, a former New York policeman, had to apply her make-up and dress her. But he told us this was his chance to repay everything Carol had done for him.
Mike Daly: She had a job. She cleaned the house. She did the laundry. She made the beds and she endured me. What has changed for us? Now I do the laundry. I make the beds. I help Carol.
Dr. Jonathan LaPook: But you did not sign up for that?
Mike Daly: Yes, I did. When you, when we took our oath, it is good or bad. So I signed up for it at the beginning.
But Mike had gained nearly twenty pounds over the last two years and started taking pills to reduce anxiety and help him sleep.
Mike Daly: The thing is, I could sit here and pity myself. But what will that do for me?
At our next meeting, a year later, when Carol could not find words, she laughingly replied.