Shedding light on Alzheimer’s Awareness at The Preserve

Alzheimer’s disease affects nearly 6.7 million older Americans.

At the Preserve, a senior living community in Fort Myers, nearly 20 residents have a form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.

Ralph Marshall, a resident of The Preserve, and his wife, Maggie Marshall, took the time to share their story to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and its nonlinear path.

Ralph, a native of Maine and a former lobsterman, engineer of 50 years, inventor and weightlifter, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s recently. After his mother and brother both passed from Alzheimer’s, Maggie knew what signs to look out for. Ralph was at high risk of having Alzheimer’s, since he had multiple immediate relatives with the disease.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, having a direct relative with Alzheimer’s increases your chance of developing the condition, and having more than one first-degree relative with Alzheimer’s increases those chances even more. While having a relative with Alzheimer’s does not guarantee that you will develop it, it is possible.

When Ralph began to present signs of dementia, Maggie was determined to get a diagnosis. At first, Ralph struggled to get a diagnosis, as his doctor did not believe that Alzheimer’s was hereditary. After a particularly bad month for Ralph, the Marshalls visited the Roskamp Institute in Sarasota, the leading nonprofit organization in the global effort to learn more about mind diseases. There, Ralph was officially diagnosed with Lewy bodies, which impacts memory, behavior and movement and is commonly found in Alzheimer’s disease.

“It was a heavy diagnosis, but it made me feel so much better. It reassured me that I wasn’t crazy and that something really was wrong,” said Maggie.

The next step after diagnosis was to find out how far along Ralph’s condition was.

Ralph went through occupational therapy but was not improving. On one occasion, he fell six times in one week and required assistance from the fire department to get up.

“There’s help when needed,” said Maggie. “The Preserve has the necessary resources to help its residents who have fallen, but also the resources to prevent falls, such as occupational therapy.”

Soon after, the couple relocated to Fort Myers to be closer to their daughter. Maggie and her daughter collaborated to find a senior community for Ralph that specialized in memory care. For a year and a half, Ralph lived in a community in Bonita Springs, but the long drive became taxing on Maggie.

The search for a closer community began, and the Marshalls’ daughter discovered that The Preserve had opened its memory care services. When they came to visit, I was available to give them a tour. The Preserve had an available memory care room, and soon, Ralph moved into Memory Support.

“The Preserve is so good to us. You couldn’t ask for a nicer place,” said Maggie. “The price range is just a bit more than our previous location, but the care that Ralph receives makes it worth every penny. He’s doing so much better now than he was before.”

Since his diagnosis, Ralph’s condition has improved with medication; now, he experiences more good days than harder days. The Preserve also supports Maggie. She’ll often visit with the staff and nurses to talk about Ralph’s condition.

On an average day, Ralph enjoys a chef-prepared breakfast and watching football. Twice a week, Ralph goes to The Clam Bake with Maggie to enjoy lobster, his favorite meal.

As a former weightlifter, Ralph enjoys participating in physical therapy. He also attends religious services at The Preserve, plays his trumpet and violin and enjoys Scrabble games. The Life Enrichment team encourages Ralph to join in on activities with other residents, such as trips for coffee or to Perkins, as well as other community events.

“The staff here can tell when he’s not having the best day, and they’ll try to get him out of his apartment,” said Maggie. “They don’t push him, but they encourage him.”

Maggie continues to learn about Alzheimer’s. Knowing the state that your loved one will be in and what they will go through while battling a memory disease is hard, but being educated helps her understand Ralph’s condition.

“Every case is different, every situation is different, and what works for one person, isn’t working for someone else,” said Maggie. “If somebody asked me for advice on navigating an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, I would tell them to find a good doctor who knows the ins and outs of memory disease, rather than giving them personal advice.”

To the Marshalls, Alzheimer’s is a maze, but not an impossible one.

To learn more about memory support services at The Preserve, please visit

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