That has been true for Watson-Beard. She left her assisted-living job last year and worked briefly as a home health care aide before quitting. She tried shifting to other jobs that didn't involve direct patient care, but her symptoms persisted.
Her house is in foreclosure and she has no medical insurance. She pays out of pocket for doctor's visits and gets her supply of Namenda, which treats dementia symptoms, free from the drug company.
Watson-Beard lives in a brick ranch with pale yellow shutters on a quiet street in this small central city. A few light wrinkles around her eyes are the only main signs of age. She occasionally glances to the left in silence, unable to find an answer in her memory, but she speaks with lucidity most of the time in an interview. But not all days are so good.
Once recently, she came out of her grandchildren's school and went into another unlocked car. It wasn't until the key didn't fit that she realized it wasn't hers. She has had car accidents, once forgot a grandson at a snack bar, and regularly bumps into people who know her but whom she can't remember anything about.
"It's frustrating because you're at this level of functioning and then it's gone and you don't know what tomorrow's going to bring," she said.
She remembers one man in particular now from her years of nursing; he came each day to visit his elderly wife, who was fading away into advanced dementia. She had lost the ability to speak, but her husband wondered aloud if maybe she had entered some higher realm, a new level of spirituality where she no longer needed words.
She used to lead two support groups for the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, but gave one up when she kept getting their locations confused. She still leads one at an assisted living facility in Leesburg.
Those who gather don't know of their leader's diagnosis. She simply sits and listens to their struggles.
For an hour, the group remains in a circle, the clock slowly ticking as the stories flow out. Watson-Beard looks forward to it ending; she prefers to be home.
Watson-Beard wonders if the spiritual life envisioned by her patient's husband is what's in store for her instead of what she imagined aging would be like: staying close to home, enjoying family, going to neighborhood barbecues.
All she knows is that life won't go the way she planned.
"It's not what I envisioned at all," she says, as tears begin again to flow. "It just wasn't in the equation."
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