Couple Find Support Through Local Alzheimer’s Association

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Eli and Sue Cooper

Sue and Eli Cooper of West Bloomfield will be spending Saturday, Oct. 1, in a very special way. They will be members of Team Sue at the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” at Comerica Park, a 2-mile walk fundraiser hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association-Greater Michigan Chapter.

This cause is very personal to the couple as Sue Cooper, 56, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s on New Year’s Eve 2013, after experiencing depressive issues, a common symptom of the disease, and frequently getting lost.

It all came to a head when Sue became the victim of an internet phishing scam. Looking back, Eli, 57, says that after putting all the symptoms together, the diagnosis made sense. “I can’t emphasize enough that hindsight is a lot clearer,” said Eli Cooper, a transportation manager for the city of Ann Arbor.

Sue went through six months of testing, ranging from basic physical screenings to MRIs. She did not have a typical Alzheimer’s presentation as her short-term memory was relatively intact. However, her executive management and visuospatial areas of the brain were most affected. She was definitively diagnosed from a spinal fluid test. Through this, Sue remained focused, calm and positive.

“It was difficult, and I was in denial at some point. Throughout time, I decided I wasn’t going to let it get me down,” said Sue, who also states there are moments when the diagnosis is difficult to handle. She adds that family, including her parents and sister Shari, as well as friends, continue to be supportive, often visiting and driving her, as she can no longer do so herself.

Soon after the diagnosis, Sue and Eli became involved with the Southfield-based Alzheimer’s Association. Among other things, the organization provided support and materials, such as reading lists of resources and information about Alzheimer’s disease and names of attorneys to help them get their affairs in order, as well as the opportunity to meet others who have been affected by the disease. Sue remarks that seeing friendly and familiar faces has helped to reinforce she is not alone.

“The Alzheimer’s Association has been a godsend,” Eli says. “We have been able to survive and exist in large part due to them — the warmth, kindness and availability of the staff has been amazing.”

The couple, who met on JDate and married in 2007 at Temple Israel, where they are members, participated in their first Walk to End Alzheimer’s last year, creating Team Sue, which is captained by Sue’s childhood friend, Dana.

“As the caregiver, it was very powerful, the feeling of love and support, and the energy of everybody who was there last year,” Eli said. “It was very uplifting. For that reason, we want to give back.”

This year, in addition to their Walk team, they are serving as members on the Detroit Walk Committee.

Along with the Alzheimer’s Association, Sue is involved in other volunteer programs and says she gets energy from remaining an active and involved citizen. Currently, she volunteers at JVS in the Senior Corps Program, goes to the Friendship Circle’s Soul Center and is an artist who creates mosaics.

“I enjoy life. I enjoy people,” she said. “I love volunteering. For now, that’s all I can do. I maintain a pretty good attitude.”

The Saturday, Oct. 1, Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Comerica Park will begin with a ceremony at noon followed by a 12:30 p.m. start to the walk. For details, visit act.alz.org/walk.

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