National Public Radio (June 16, 2010): A Decade of Alzheimer's Devastating Impact

Publication Date: 
Wed, 06/16/2010

In 1999, Tom DeBaggio was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease. He was 57. Soon after the diagnosis, he began talking with NPR about his illness. He wanted to document his decline, to break through what he called the "shame and silence" of Alzheimer's.

NPR's Noah Adams started the visits with Tom, his wife Joyce and his son Francesco at DeBaggio's Herb Farm and Nursery in Chantilly, Va.

"I still talk, I still stand up on both feet, I still look the same - maybe they go out of here and say, 'Doesn't look like anything wrong with him.' And of course you don't see it," he said then.

Over the course of a year, Tom DeBaggio described his growing confusion with language:  the sudden, inexplicable tears. And the waves of anger that came with Alzheimer's.

I picked up the conversations in 2005. Tom took me through the nursery, proud to show off dozens of kinds of tomato plants.

When I visited Tom again three years ago, his decline was pronounced. He couldn't name the disease he has, but he could express his feelings about it.