'Don't let it take you down without a fight'
Mark Seaton was just 57 when he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease.
The Highlandville man said the disease has progressed very little since his diagnosis six years ago and today he's doing pretty good.
He knows if and when a cure is found, it will likely be too late for him.
But that's not going to be on his mind when he walks in the annual Walk to End Alzheimer's this Saturday. He and his wife, Alice, walk for the sake of their children and grandchildren.
"We don't want our children to fear, 'Am I going to get this?' Or our grandchildren," Alice Seaton said. "We want them to find a cure."
Mark Seaton agreed.
"When we first started this road, there was a lot less money going to research," he said. "The Alzheimer's Association has worked toward getting more funding from the state and federal government for research."
Alice Seaton's mother and father-in-law, Loretta and Finis Essary, live in a trailer behind the Seaton's home.
Loretta and Finis Essary have both been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease as well.
Mark Seaton retired from his 30-year career with Associated Grocers, but his wife continues to work outside the home. They have a home health aide visit three times a week to help with the Essarys.
Alice Seaton talks about supporting her husband Mark and parents who all have Alzheimer's disease at the family's home in Highlandville, Mo., on Friday, Sep. 13, 2019. (Photo: Andrew Jansen/Springfield News-Leader)
Alice, Mark and Loretta sat on the Seaton's front porch on Friday and shared their experiences with the News-Leader. (They also said anyone who is not yet signed up for a team to walk Saturday is welcome to join their "Remember me?" team.)
"This is the path that was chosen for us," Alice Seaton said. "I had my battles with God at first. And God finally said, 'Yes, this is going on. But I will walk you through it.' And I was fine after that."
"It took him three and a half years of arguing with God before he accepted it," she said, glancing at her husband. "And we can live with it."
Loretta Essary will also be participating in Saturday's Walk to End Alzheimer. The 82-year-old continually finds humor in her dementia.
"Last year was my first year to walk," Loretta Essary said.
"No," Alice Seaton corrected her, "it was your third year."
"I don't remember," Loretta Essar said, laughing.
"Our grandchildren — her great-grandchildren — absolutely love hanging out with her," Alice Seaton said. "They say, 'We can tell Granny anything and she won't remember it tomorrow.'"
With that, Loretta Essary playfully hid her face behind her cane and grinned.
"Isn't that mean," she teased.
The family recently organized a softball tournament and raised nearly $2,000 for the Alzheimer's Association. A few years ago, their son raised more than $40,000 for the cause doing a 100-mile trail run.
"He'll never do that again," Alice Seaton said.
Alice and Mark Seaton said they rely on the Alzheimer's Association for information and education. The association even sent an educator to the Seaton's church to do a seminar.
The Seatons have consulted with an elder law attorney to get their affairs in order. They have irrevocable funeral plans, for example.
"It's knowing how to plan for what's going to happen down the road," Alice Seaton said. "You don't focus on it, but you plan for it."
Mark and Alice Seaton say they believe Mark's refusal to let the disease hold him back or get him down is the reason his Alzheimer's is progressing so slowly.
"The only thing that has really proven to help is to keep your mind and body active," Alice Season said. "That is exactly what he does. He never was a really big reader, and he's taken up reading. Physically, he is constantly busy."
"Don't let it take you down without a fight," Mark Seaton added. "It's pretty easy to get to feeling like I don't want to get up. I want to stay in bed all day. I get up every day and have my coffee out here. I'm busy every day."
Walk to End Alzheimer's is Saturday
Registration is at 9 a.m. at Jordan Valley Park, 635 E. Trafficway St. Register online at act.alz.org.
The opening ceremony is at 10 a.m., with the one-mile walk following.
All funds raised through Walk to End Alzheimer's further the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer's Association. The Alzheimer's Association is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.
The event is rain or shine, but could be canceled if there is severe weather.
Strollers are allowed, as well as well-behaved dogs on leashes.
On Walk day, participants will receive a wristband. Each registered walker with a wristband will receive a Promise Garden flower, with a choice of color that best represents their connection to the disease:
Blue represents someone with Alzheimer's or dementia;
Purple is for someone who has lost a loved one to the disease;
Yellow represents someone who is currently supporting or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s;
Orange is for everyone who supports the cause and vision of a world without Alzheimer’s.
The Alzheimer's Association is the world's leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's. For more information, visit www.alz.org.