The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 2, 2013

In Sickness and in Health: North Mankato couple's lives dominated by dementia marked by hallucinations

Part 1 of 2

NORTH MANKATO — It’d be really easy to laugh at Judy Roe.

After all, this is a woman who once saw a rhinoceros walking down her North Mankato street. A woman who sees little people living in the house plants and in her ceiling fan.

She sees people living between the couch cushions and water flooding the kitchen floor.

One minute she’s fine, and the next minute she sees a party in her living room and does her best to make sure they’ve got plenty to eat. In a room full of nothing but nursing home residents and medical staff, she can see peacocks and turkeys roaming the floor.

Sometimes the things she sees scare her enough to send her fleeing from her own home. And sometimes the only way she knows it’s OK to return is when a mysterious man dressed in black beckons her inside.

If she could, Judy might even laugh along with you. But there’s nothing funny about the demise of a woman’s mind and body, and a husband who must watch his wife disappear before his eyes.

Judy, 70, suffers from a mind thief you’ve probably never heard of before called Lewy body dementia. While it’s not exactly rare, it’s far less known than Alzheimer’s. In some ways they are the same. But in others, they’re not.

Lewy body dementia is characterized, among other things, by hallucinations. Sometimes those hallucinations are funny, such as the thought of a rhino walking down James Drive in upper North Mankato. Other times they’re heartbreaking, such as the time she relived the death of her mother in a way that made her, for a few moments, experience the loss as if it were happening for the first time.

In a stroke of compassion, Judy — who knew this was coming — decided to help her husband’s transition from living as a free spirit with a doting wife to a man who must take care of himself.

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