Debbie Rosado of Saugerties knows very well how challenging life with dementia can be. Her mother, Rose Newland who lives nearby in Saugerties with her father Vinnie Newland, has been living with dementia for about 10 years, as did many of her siblings who have since passed away. A few years ago, her husband, Gaspar Rosado, known as Gary, was also diagnosed with early-onset dementia at age 57.
“My mom was the youngest of 11 children, and eight of them lived to adulthood. Pretty much all of her siblings got it. She’s the only one surviving right now. She was never officially diagnosed, but we just knew. She’s probably had symptoms for 10 years.”
The first sign that something was amiss with her mother appeared when she was gardening.
“She was a gardener, and she planted a lot of garlic in the fall. She dug 120 holes for her garlic; she covered them and forgot to plant the garlic. That was kind of the first sign. Then it was repeating herself, and forgetting how to cook. Going out the garden and not really doing anything,” she recalled.
She said her parents tried assisted living for a year, but it wasn’t a perfect fit. She found them an apartment nearby and sought help from professionals for some of the caregiving.
“I couldn’t do the hands-on care, so my father agreed to have help come in. Two days later, she fell, broke her shoulder and her wrist and ended up in rehab. She was a totally different person. She thought people were killing her. It took repeated attempts with psychotropic medication and dosages to get her stabilized,” she said, noting that things did eventually improve but did not return to normal.
“She is functioning much better now. She says phrases, but she can’t hold a conversation. She laughs a lot; she hugs a lot. She tries to tell funny things; she’s very affectionate. She’s 86, and my dad is turning 88. They have been married 63 years. We’re so committed to not putting her in a nursing home. It gives my dad purpose to care for my mom. He wants to give back to her what she provided to him for so many years. He never really wanted strangers in his house, but he’s growing such nice relationships with the caretakers. He’s doing well enough; he still has all his faculties. He runs the household to the best of his ability, and my sister comes down and fills in.”
In her husband’s case, she knew something was wrong when he completely forgot a Thanksgiving gathering the next day.
“Maybe seven or eight years ago, we had been at my sister’s in Albany for Thanksgiving, and the next day, he didn’t remember any of it. He had driven and everything,” she said.
“Then things just kept happening, and I got him to a neurologist. She ordered a sleep test, CAT scan, PET scan, MRI. He did terrible with the memory test. He was getting lost driving places.”
He was eventually diagnosed with retrograde amnesia, or memory loss from an unknown source.
“The neurologist actually ruled out Alzheimer’s at that time,” she said. “We just kind of waited, and it did slowly get worse. Then, 3.5 years ago, he had rotator cuff surgery on his shoulder, and things were starting to go downhill. Six days later, he had a heart attack. He became very depressed, and I was able to convince him to see a psychiatrist, who adjusted his medications and helped stabilize him. Then we went to see a new neurologist in New York City who reviewed previous tests, administered new memory testing in the office, and ordered a spinal tap to check for specific proteins in the brain. A month later, we received the devastating diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s when Gary was 57.
On the website for their Walk to End Alzheimer’s team, Team Gary, Debbie Rosado describes what his life is like now.
“He can no longer complete tasks without repeated prompts, like changing clothes, brushing teeth and taking a shower. Confusion and anxiety are daily challenges. He cannot be left alone for long, and he has lost the ability to entertain himself with the hobbies he had enjoyed. The circle of people he knows has become only longtime friends and family, and it is shrinking. He knows his two beautiful daughters, but to him, they are 18, when they are actually in their thirties.”
Debbie Rosado ended up leaving her job of 30 years early at age 55, in order to spend more time with him. They celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary with a special trip to Italy, but, unfortunately, he cannot remember it. She said she misses her romantic partner on special days as well as the equal partner who helped her care for the household.
“I walk a fine line between treating a grown man with dignity, while in reality it is like taking care of a child,” she said on the Team Gary page. “It can be exhausting at times to manage our household and at the same time provide him with a high quality of life. He is still so affectionate with a great sense of humor.”
Their daughter, Gabriela, is posting a series of TikTok videos with her father on her TikTok page @gcrosadoto raise money to benefit their Walk team. Her goal is to raise $3,000.
“She’s extremely close to her father,” Debbie Rosado said. “The TikToks will make you laugh, make you cry, depending on what her mood is. She’s just very creative.”
Team Gary is giving bookmarks to those who donate $50 or more. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s — Dutchess/Ulster will he held on Saturday, Oct. 15, starting on the Highland side of the Walkway. To register or make a donation, visit DutchessUlsterWalk.org
About the Hudson Valley Chapter
The Hudson Valley Chapter serves families living with dementia in seven counties in New York, including Duchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester. To learn more about the programs and services offered locally, visit alz.org/hudsonvalley.
About the Alzheimer’s Association
The Alzheimer’s Association leads the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Its vision is a world without Alzheimer’s and all dementia. Visit alz.org.