His team name is “Team Shirley” in honor of his wife. The intro to his walk donation page reads something like this “The love of my life has Alzheimer’s and I am trying to raise some money to find a cure for this terrible disease.” Meet Dave Tomlinson.

His team name is “Team Shirley” in honor of his wife. The intro to his walk donation page reads something like this “The love of my life has Alzheimer’s and I am trying to raise some money to find a cure for this terrible disease.” Meet Dave Tomlinson.

Dave Tomlinson and his wife have been together for 30 years. These days, Shirley can’t do much. She lives in a nursing home to receive the care and 24-hour attention she needs. A nursing home was the only alternative to receive assistance with her care after the Tomlinson’s went broke paying for her treatment and needed services. She suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s disease unable to speak or identify her surroundings. surroundings. “One son went to visit and said ‘she squeezed my hand, so I think she knows me today,’” Dave recalls.

When Shirley began acting strange at the age of 55 Dave grew concerned. “I would come home and say ‘How was your day? What did you do today?’” Dave said. “She would say ‘I spent all day balancing the checkbook. And I would say ‘What? We don’t write that many checks!’” In an attempt to find out what was happening, Dave began going to all of his wife’s doctors’ appointments. “I wanted to make sure they were checking for everything,” he said. “I thought it was depression or something.”

When a diagnosis finally came, it was Alzheimer’s. Shirley was only 57 years old. The disease has no cure.
Alzheimer’s cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. It is a devastating diagnosis.
“I felt lost,” David said of his reaction to the diagnosis. “What do you do? What can you do?”

Refusing to be a bystander to his wife’s illness, Dave decided to get involved. He began learning everything he could about the disease and contacted the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Missouri for information about what to do. What began as a quest to learn more has turned in to a way of life for David as he continues to not only educate himself, but others.

He is known as a man with many hats. Besides his continued dedication to Shirley, he heads up the local Alzheimer’s group, serves on the board, organizes and participates in the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s and still manages to find time to lead a support group for men who have also found themselves as caretakers. He has gotten involved as an advocate working with legislatures here in Missouri and traveling to Washington, D.C.. pushing for changes in services, funding, public policy and taking every opportunity to increase awareness of the disease. And in 2018, received statewide recognition for his dedication to the cause when he was awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Senior Service Award for his more than 1,500 volunteer hours to the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Missouri Chapter.

“It’s a hard diagnosis and it’s very hard to plan for,” David says. David was able to keep his wife at home for six years before the stress of caring for her became overwhelming, combined with the financial situation forced him to reconsider her staying at home.
“Between working and organizing caregivers my health started to deteriorate,” Dave said. In Feb. 2016, David made the decision to place Shirley in a nursing home.

While Shirley no longer walks by his side, Dave is still dedicated to the cause. He continues to walk each year, serves as a Walk chairman, and is involved with local support groups. He says his efforts are not only to honor his wife, but to give back to help others but to bring awareness to what the future holds.

Alzheimer’s Disease by the Numbers

Families face enormous emotional obstacles during the course of the disease. They sometimes face overpowering financial burdens as well. Nationwide there are an estimated 15 million people serving in this capacity generating over 18 billion hours of unpaid labor caring for family members.
Recently Missouri’s Gov. Mike Parson signed into law a measure that provides a mechanism for family caregivers to be compensated as professional caregivers by adding provisions allowing MO HealthNet or Medicaid payment to those family caregivers who live in full-time with the patient. A two-income family may still not be able to afford to hire someone nor afford to quit a job to stay home with their patient. Relieving some of the financial worries allows a caregiver to focus on the patient’s care.

Alzheimer’s has become the 6th leading cause of death in America. Of all those suffering some form of cognitive impairment, 65%-70% are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. A diagnosis of Early Onset Alzheimer’s may take up to two years.

The average lifespan of a person suffering with Alzheimer’s is four to eight years. During that time children and other family members still are prone to expect the person to be as capable as prior to the onset. One of the most devastating aspects for families can be the necessity of going to court to have one’s parent declared mentally incompetent in order to manage the business and personal affairs for that parent as he or she becomes tangled in time and skill.

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s will take place on Sun., Sept. 29 at School of the Osage High School track on Highway 42 in Osage Beach.