MANASSAS, Va. (WUSA) -- More than five million people in the United States have Alzheimer's Disease, and it's the sixth leading cause of death. While we're making progress against other major killers from cancer to heart disease to AIDS, Alzheimer's marches on and continues to takes more lives.
A new study from the Alzheimer's Association says the increase in number of patients has lead to an increase in caregivers. Today there are almost 15 million caregivers who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their love ones. With that, many have stopped looking after themselves.
In the 2011 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report, 61% of caregivers reported high to very high emotional stress and 57% reported high to very high physical stress.
Carroll Porter is one of those caregivers, and he spends every day by the side of his wife of 55 years, Lillian Porter. Their love is one for the story books.
"We knew right when we saw each other and has been love ever since," he shares of their meeting on a dance floor.
The 83-year-old former teacher was diagnosed with Alzheimer's back in 2005 and spent the next 5 years living at home. In June, her needs became too much for the family to handle, and they had to move her into the Manassas Health and Rehab Center, so she could get 24-hour care.
But Carroll still spends his days with his bride: "I am in at 11:30 and leave about 7:30 after she goes to bed, everyday." He wouldn't want to be anywhere else. He also volunteers at the nursing home these days, helping in the care of other patients.
Their only son Curtis Porter and his family also help with Lillian's care. But Curtis says the toll Alzheimer's takes is incredible, both emotionally and financially.
Curtis tells us, "My daughter is 17 and she will be graduating from high school this year. Unfortunately, the memories she really has of her grandmother that will stick with her will be her in the condition she is in now, because as a younger child she really can't remember the joy that they had together."
The love that this family shares is obvious and on her better days, Lillian gives them a glimmer of her old self.
"I believe there are times we go there and she recognizes us. There is no doubt that she recognizes my dad. She has always called him 'deary' and she will say 'deary' every once in a while," Curtis says.
Neurologists say there's more hope for therapies than ever, as research uncovers more about what Alzheimer's does in the brain, and how to slow it down or even reverse it. There are medications already approved that can help slow the progression of dementia.