When Ray Smith learned in 1991 that his wife was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, the former British art dealer took her on a world trip.
“I believe all disabled people should have a good life,” Smith said in an interview earlier this week in Tokyo, where he attended an international conference on Alzheimer’s disease.
“I asked what she would like to do, and she wanted to go and see the world.”
Ray, 74, and his wife, Grace, visited such places as the Taj Mahal in India, beaches in Cuba, art galleries in Italy, ancient ruins in Peru and the Galapagos Islands, traveling for about 10 years until Grace’s death in December 2002.
Alzheimer’s disease, which usually affects the elderly, prevents the brain from functioning normally and causes loss of memory.
Sufferers easily get lost and sometimes become aggressive out of frustration with themselves.
Drugs can only delay the progress of the symptoms.
Finding effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease has become increasingly important, especially for countries with aging populations, such as Japan.
According to media reports, of the estimated 15 million sufferers worldwide, 1 million are Japanese.
Smith, who is from Peterborough, a town about 128 km north of London, attended the 20th International Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease in Kyoto between Oct. 15 and 17 as a general participant to tell his story.
When his wife was diagnosed with the disease in her mid-50s, Smith quit his job and began taking care of her full time. But his method was unique.
Ray and Grace Smith, both of whom studied nursing skills for three years while in their 20s, decided to use organic foods and supplements such as vitamins and minerals to treat the disease instead of relying on conventional drugs.
“Drugs have adverse side effects,” he said. “Having (high doses of) vitamins and minerals kept her very calm.”
Smith gave Grace supplements based on prescriptions by a doctor in New Jersey in the United States. She also walked more than 10 km every day and swam to stay in shape, he said.
During winter, the couple moved to tropical countries.
He said traveling stimulated Grace.
“She remembered some of it, but her memory was going all the time. She lived for the moment,” he said. “She was always calm and appeared to be happy.”
Smith has written a book about his experience. The book, “Amazing Grace: Enjoying Alzheimer’s,” was published by London-based Metro Publishing Ltd. four months ago.
He hopes people recognize that there are different ways of treating Alzheimer’s.
“I think I extended her life by treating her with the supplements and kept her happy,” he said, adding that everyone with Alzheimer’s can still enjoy life.
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