BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — About 50 million people worldwide are suffering from some sort of diagnosed degenerative brain disease that causes dementia and for 60 percent of them, that disease is Alzheimer’s.
The disease affects primarily those in their mid-60s and older, but some can start feeling the effects in their 50s and even earlier.
Early onset Alzheimer’s changed the lives of Tracy and John Locarnini.
Now, 15 years after John developed the first signs of the disease, they have a new ritual five days a week: a mid-morning visit to the Rose Lazzerini Adult Day Services Campus of the Alzheimer’s Disease Association of Kern County, on Buena Vista Road.
John Locarnini worked in the oil industry for more than 35 years but after he began to feel some of the symptoms, he took an early retirement.
Now, at 72, he relies on Tracy, his wife of 29 years, for literally everything. She dresses, cleans, baths and feeds him. And for three or four hours a day, the ADAKC’s adult care center provides one of her few respites.
She has noting but praise for the “angels” who work there, including Julie Juarez-Ceja,
ADAKC is not just a 9 to 5 operation. It also coordinates support groups — digital in this age of COVID-19. Jessica Fierros says it’s a lifesaver for her mother Liz Fierros, who cares for her father Jesus.
“Their doors may be closed (to support groups during the pandemic) but their hearts are open,” Jessica Fierros said. “And that’s so true. They made sure to help us. They navigated Zoom to make sure they have their support group every Wednesday. Mom’s ready to go on Zoom at 1:30 (p.m.) and she looks forward to it. She’s always telling everyone, ‘I have support group on Wednesday.’ It’s actually very important to have that outlet. They have something to look forward to and they can be in an environment where people do understand.”
Research is ongoing and progress has been made, but for the families dealing with Alzheimer’s here and now and for the foreseeable future, it’s organizations like the ADAKC that are making life manageable.
To give to the local Alzheimer’s Disease Association Kern County, go to adakc.org.