Alzheimer's is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and in North Carolina.
In Pitt County, for the first time, this disease is now one of the top ten leading causes of death. Doctor's say there's no cure.
One family that knows the impact of Alzheimer's is the Sutton family of Greenville. Tarshia Cogdell says it was three years ago when she first noticed her mother's behavior starting to change. Cogdell says, "She had strange behavior first, that's how we first picked it up. We could be looking for her and it be almost a 100 degrees outside and she would be sitting in the car with the doors locked ...we went through all of that."
And the concern grew as Margaret Sutton gradually began to forget. Those signs pointed to one conclusion and then the diagnoses confirmed what her family suspected...that Margaret was suffering from Alzheimer's.
Margaret's husband James of 59 years says, "I always pictured in my mind we'd always know it each other. I hope it never gets that bad, that's what I'm praying for. For it to not get that bad."
Doctor Frank Fleming, a neurologist in Greenville, studies Alzheimer patients and says there are factors that lead up to the disease. "We know in where some families it is a genetic disposition definitely. In other people we believe it's multiple factors and there's not one gene there's multiple genes and then sometimes we think there's probably environmental factors the trigger it."
Besides the patient, Alzheimer's takes a toll on families. A study this year published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine shows one quarter of all family caregivers of Alzheimer's disease patients fall victim to the stress of providing care to a loved one and become hospital patients themselves.
Those who can't take on that responsible are turning elsewhere such as a long term care facility.
Tarshia Cogdell says she's made up her mind about her mother's care...she will always stay at home. Codgell says
"Never ever an option to go anywhere else but here."