A Michigan man who posted an emotional Facebook video asking for his friends to visit and talk to him like they did prior to his Alzheimer’s diagnosis spoke to Global News about the outpouring of support he’s received since posting the video.
Alan “Beam” Beamer is living with Alzheimer’s, an irreversible disease that causes memory deterioration, and on Jan. 3 in a heart-wrenching Facebook video that has since gone viral, Beamer told his family and friends he’s the same person and would like for them to visit and talk to him like they used to.
“Just know…I’m the same old person and I wish all of my friends could come up and just talk to me like they did before…play and joke around,” Beamer said while holding back tears in the video.
“There was nothing in this world I couldn’t do,” Beamer told Global News in a phone interview from his home in Big Rapids, MI.
His wife, Mary Beth, who was also on the phone, said her husband was an educator and an athlete.
“Alan was a teacher and a quarterback. He played football his entire life,” Mary Beth said.
“I was pretty good looking too,” Beamer joked.
But the couple said it’s not about living in the past but looking forward and dealing with the present, which includes Beamer’s Alzheimer’s.
Beamer was diagnosed with the disease two years ago, but his wife said she noticed a change in his behaviour before that.
“I first started noticing eight years ago,” Mary Beth said. “[Alan] would put groceries in another person’s cart but I brushed it off and said ‘everything is OK.’”
Other incidents that led Mary Beth to believe something was different with her husband was when he would tell stories that never happened or forget to pick her up from work for lunch.
And even though the couple now knows the reasoning for Beamer’s new behaviour, it’s still a lifestyle they need to get used to.
“It’s all very new,” Mary Beth admitted. “And it’s a lonely world.”
So lonely that Beamer and his wife decided to create a Facebook video to show what the couple was dealing with on a daily basis.
In the video, Mary Beth can be heard off camera asking her husband if she thinks people are afraid of him now.
“Yeah, I know they’re afraid of me,” Beamer replied. “[But] I love them. I wish they’d come over…stay for five minutes, 10 minutes…”
Mary Beth also asks Beamer if he would like to talk about his mental health with others.
“I would rather… ignore it really,” Beamer admits.
According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, the number of people being diagnosed with the disease is “rising sharply.” And as of 2011, 747,000 people have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, as well as other forms of dementia. The society also notes that number is expected to double to 1.4 million people by 2031. On top of that, family caregivers spend “444 million unpaid hours looking after someone with dementia. That’s the equivalent of $11 billion in lost income and 227,760 full-time jobs.”
WATCH: A 66-year-old man from Michigan, who is living with Alzheimer’s, has struck a nerve with an emotional plea to his friends. Jennifer Tryon has the story.
The U.S. Alzheimer’s Association states the disease is the “sixth leading cause of death” in the country with someone developing the disease every 67 seconds.
“I don’t think people feel too comfortable,” Mary Beth says in the video.
Beamer’s wife also pleaded in the video for her husband’s friends to make a trip to see him.
“You may not feel comfortable coming to see Alan, and it may break your heart, but if you truly loved him…you could take a few minutes out of your day.”
“That was my first time working a camera,” Mary Beth laughed on the phone. “But we were having such a bad weekend so we went [to see family] and had a friend visit us. They only visited for a short time – they couldn’t handle [the Alzheimer’s]. And when they left I remember Alan looking at me and asking, ‘What did I do wrong?’”
So with a camera in hand, Mary Beth and Beamer decided to record a video to let people understand what they had to live with.
“I asked [Alan] some questions,” Mary Beth Said. “When we were done I showed it to him and asked if we could share it for a few people to see. We thought maybe if people saw it they wouldn’t run from us.”
The video has been viewed more than 110,000 times since it’s been posted.
When asked about the outpouring of support the video has received, Alan said he’s just happy more people are aware of what he’s going through.
“I just wanted [my friends] to hear and see,” Beamer said. “I do what I can. I have to get over the horrible, horrible look people have as [I] walk around.”
Mary Beth explained Beamer will sometimes get up and walk around not knowing where to sit, or will put a glass he was drinking down randomly, or will even forget which side of the bed to rest his head.
“We have to laugh about it sometimes because if we don’t laugh we’ll cry,” she said.
“We just want more people to know,” Beamer added. “And I was stunned when we saw the amount of people…friend requests…”
“From the Ukraine to the Dominican Republic,” Mary Beth also added.
And yes, even some of Beamer’s friends – whom the video was originally meant for – have reached out to visit.
“We can’t worry about the other ones,” Mary Beth said.
But Beamer is just glad he had a great response from the post.