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Walking to remember

PLATTSBURGH - Alzheimer's disease is a brain disorder that robs millions of people of their lives each year and thousands of families of the loved ones as they once knew them. That's something Debbie Frederick of West Chazy will never forget.

Frederick lost her father, the late Douglas J. Hoffman of Mooers Forks, in August 2009 after his five-year battle with Alzheimer's. His diagnosis of the debilitating disease in 2004 came as a shock to Frederick and her family. Hoffman wasn't even at the age many would consider a senior citizen.

"He was only 62," said Frederick. "When I thought of Alzheimer's before, I didn't think I'd have to deal with it until my parents were in their 80s and 90s."

In the beginning, Frederick's father showed "very subtle signs" of the disease, she said.

"It was really difficult to differentiate between if it was really happening to him or if something else was," recalled Frederick. "He could remember the Buffalo Bills were playing on Sunday but had difficulty remembering he had to brush his teeth that day."

"My husband really noticed it when we were tapping for maple syrup," she continued. "Dad would get confused what the next step was even though it had been something he had been doing for the last few years."

Though her father fully understood his diagnosis when he received it, said Frederick, he would often try to compensate for it and find a way around discussing the issue.

"When he would see someone who he couldn't remember their name, he would just smile and work his way around not having to say their name," said Frederick.

Her father's condition gradually grew worse, and, in 2007, home movies captured how much Alzheimer's had taken its toll.

"My daughter was interviewing him playfully asking him how old he was and he kept joking with her," Frederick recalled. "Knowing now what he was going through, he probably really didn't know how old he was."

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