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Oscar and Bessie Carter: Faith, Love, and Alzheimer’s

We all need to hear a good love story from time to time. This one will grab your heart, and maybe even inspire you to see things a little bit differently.

I’ve shared here before that my sweet father suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s. While it’s been hard to watch these awful diseases take my dad’s memories, his speech, his artistic ability and his mobility, it has been equally difficult to watch my mother as she has had to transition from the role of wife to that of caregiver.

To see a person caring for someone with a disease for which they know there is no cure, day in and day out, with a smile on their face really makes you wonder how they do it.

I recently met a delightful and inspiring man caring for his wife with Alzheimer’s right here in Frisco who had a simple answer for me… Faith!

A Love Story

Frisco residents Oscar and Bessie Carter have been married nearly 52 years. The couple met in choir at Winston Salem State in North Carolina. According to Mr. Carter, they started out as friends and built a relationship on a foundation of faith and love for God. They married in their early twenties and supported each other as they took turns going back to school, earning three masters degrees between them.

They lived most of their married life in Detroit, raising their children and dedicating themselves to education and the church. After retiring from teaching, Bessie was the organist at the church where Mr. Carter was the Pastor. Mr. Carter says that’s where he first started to notice some changes in his wife.

The Diagnosis

After discussing his concerns with their doctors, it was recommended that Bessie undergo some testing. They got the official diagnosis in 2013 – first Dementia, with the Alzheimer’s diagnosis coming as her disease progressed.

As Bessie’s health declined, the Carters’ doctors recommended they leave their long-time home in Detroit and move to North Texas to be closer to their children who live in the area. Mr. Carter’s daughter helped him find an apartment in an independent living center in Allen where the Carters would benefit from help with cooking and cleaning. Bessie’s condition continued to decline, and Mr. Carter hired someone to come in a few hours a day to help with her care.

As Bessie’s disease progressed, Mr. Carter knew they needed another change. “She deserves to be taken care of,” he noted.

After consulting a social worker, they had a list of senior living communities to visit. His daughter helped in the search, researching communities online and combing through reviews.

Mr. Carter said, as with everything in his life, he asked the Lord to help guide them to find the right home for his wife. When they toured Mustang Creek Estates of Frisco, they felt they had found a good fit for Bessie’s needs. It was a difficult decision to make, having never lived apart in over 50 years. But once Mr. Carter got his wife settled in and he could see how she benefited from the high-quality care at Mustang Creek, he knew he had made the right decision.

While Bessie is a full-time resident, Mr. Carter is a regular fixture at Mustang Creek as well. 

Oscar spends time with his wife daily. He takes her on a morning walk, has lunch with her, prays with her, and sings to her. Though Bessie doesn’t speak much, it’s obvious that she still recognizes Mr. Carter and her children. Even the staff at Mustang Creek can see a difference in her demeanor when Mr. Carter arrives each day.

Every time Oscar comes to the community, Bessie’s face lights up,” said Candy Jiwa, executive director of Mustang Creek Estates of Frisco. “The moment he comes, she is excited to do anything you ask her to, including exercise. He quite literally puts a smile on her face and it is very heartwarming to watch every day.”

When I told Mr. Carter how much I admired people like him and my mother…devoted caregivers who are walking through this Alzheimer’s journey side by side with their loved one…he simply smiled. He said,

Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease. But we are people of faith! We know God is able to comfort us and keep us all of our days.”

Then Mr. Carter referenced Psalm 34:1, I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Even now,” said Mr. Carter. “All times means all times! That’s what I hold onto. It’s not always easy, but I am grateful for the life my wife and I have built together.”

As Mr. Carter told me when we first started chatting, that life was built on a foundation of shared faith and it is that rock solid foundation that sustains him even now. With a smile on his face, Mr. Carter exclaims,

As long as I’m able to, I’ll be here every day!” …as he squeezes her hand.

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