Former Missouri football coach manages Alzheimer’s with wife’s help
COLUMBIA, Mo. — The wife of a former University of Missouri football coach is helping her husband remember the details of his seven seasons with the team after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Warren Powers, 77, learned of his diagnosis five years ago, the Columbia Missourian reported . Warren Powers still remembers the 93 games and five bowl appearances as the Tigers’ head coach, earning a spot in MU history and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
“We had a great time and great fun,” said Linda Powers of her husband’s coaching from 1978 to 1984.
Powers began noticing a change in 2009, but it wasn’t until about four years later that her husband was diagnosed.
She has adapted alongside her husband as the disease has worsened. Issues that were once easily solvable, like getting lost while driving, have progressed.
“In the beginning, I could always get him home,” she said. “But then, we got to a point where it wasn’t so easy anymore.”
Powers started leaving Post-it notes around the house for him. She said she’s lucky because he can do most things for himself “with guidance.”
But Powers acknowledged that caregiving is draining for nearly everyone who has experienced the disease with a loved one. There are financial constraints to providing long-term care. Friends and family spend an average of $5,000 out of pocket annually on care, according to a report by the Alzheimer’s Association.
More than 16 million caregivers are unpaid, the report also found.
“If you cannot afford to take someone to day care or have someone come in to let you have some time off, it’s exhausting.” Linda Powers said, “It really is exhausting.”
Diagnosing Alzheimer’s remains a challenge for many because symptoms appear years after the disease has taken root. Doctors diagnose by a thorough evaluation, but there isn’t one test or indicator to confirm the disease while a patient is alive. It can only be officially verified by examining the brain after death.
Linda Powers also become an avid fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. The association’s Greater Missouri Chapter provides some relief for caregivers through a fund for modest financial assistance.
MIT researchers have been developing artificial intelligence that may be able to detect Alzheimer’s before any noticeable symptoms. Though there’s no cure, early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can give more time for patients to benefit from treatment and more opportunities to participate in clinical trials.
“That’s what we’ve been fighting for,” she said.