Amid Alzheimer's

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  His family had teasingly called him ďthe absent-minded professor,Ē but over time it became something moreóAlzheimerís. Al Rhodes-Wickett was blindsided by the diagnosis. The 55-year-old United Methodist minister was a gifted composer and stay-at- home dad. Now his wife and children say the hardest thing is watching the person they know disappear. One writer called it ďa death by a thousand subtractions.Ē  
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Sharon Rhodes-Wickett: ďHe's always been kind of a forgetful person, but at some point it became something else."

Fainting spells, missed appointments, then a battery of tests confirmed this United Methodist minister had Alzheimer's. Al Rhodes-Wickett was just 55.

Al Rhodes-Wickett "Can wonderful, religious people, can they ever get pissed off at God? Thatís the way I felt at times."

Nineteen million Americans share the pain and fear that Alís family is facing.

Rachel Rhodes-Wickett / Alís Daughter: "I worry about the future, not only in terms of my relationship with my dad, but I worry, you know, early-onset Alzheimer's is very genetic."

Wife Sharon is now principal caregiver, breadwinner and arbiter of family disputes.

Ben Rhodes-Wickett / Alís Son: "Now everything goes though Mom. So, it was kind of a big shift."

Sharon in pulpit: "Turning away, running away, never heals."

Sharon is also a United Methodist minister so sheís used to helping others. Helping herself is much more challenging.

Sharon: "Thatís been a helpful thing for me to share, in a sense, to disclose to the congregation. Itís hard for me to receive help. But Iím working on it.Ē

With new treatments and billions of dollars being spent on research for Alzheimer's, Al holds onto cherished thingsólike his love of music.

Al: "This is not a death certificate and there are options for me."

For this family, even with this diagnosis, there is hope.

Sharon: " I know that my future is different than what I thought it was going to be, but whatever it is, Godís in it.Ē


Since the diagnosis, the Rhodes-Wicketts say they lean on each other more for support. As Alís disease progresses, their focus is on the presentónot on whatís has been lost, but whatís still there.