- Associated Press - Saturday, July 12, 2014

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - “Lovely” and “wonderful” were John Robinson’s favorite words even before the diagnosis.

His wife, Norma, asked if he remembers a bicycle tour through Vermont.

“Lovely,” John said.

John, 71, has midstage Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia that is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. He follows conversation and responds politely when Norma asks mostly yes or no questions, but there’s a disconnect between his brain and what he’s able to say and do.

When he does talk, his words don’t always make sense.

“What did you have for lunch?” Norma asked.

“Wonderful,” he said.

After 38 years of marriage to the retired Army colonel, Norma, 64, is now a caretaker as well as a wife. The Colorado Springs couple skied, road-tripped, attended their daughters’ dances, horseback riding and gymnastics meets, and hosted six international exchange students.

Now, Norma keeps John “engaged to the amount that he can be.”

She started noticing signs that something was different in fall 2011. Calculating tips at restaurants in his head became hard for John. He’d read a chapter out of Winston Churchill’s “The Second World War” but was unable to tell her what it was about. He started having trouble making everyday decisions. Driving became dangerous.

And John stopped initiating conversations.

In February, John was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He may look as healthy as ever, but he can’t communicate, remember or move like he used to.

When not at one of his day programs, John spends afternoons playing Frisbee at the park near his house or sitting at a table with an in-home caretaker to keep him mentally active.

He fills out trivia books and looks at pictures of famous historical people. John says if he remembers John F. Kennedy or Princess Diana, and the caretaker talks about what that person did.

They play Bananagrams and read newspaper headlines. The caretaker writes a few sentences out with a black pen on a spiral notebook, and John copies the letters in all capitals above with a pencil.

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