April 25, 2014— -- A New Mexico woman whose father gradually lost most of his speech as his Alzheimer’s advanced, says spending time with the family pets often coxes small snippets of conversation from the ailing man.
Lisa Abeyta’s father, Charles Sasser, of Alburqurque, N.M., was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a degenerative disease affecting memory, about four or five years ago, but only began to lose his speech in the last six months to a year, she said.
Abeyta has written about the family’s struggles with the disease numerous times on her blog, but it was a video Abeyta posted Thursday to YouTube and Reddit that moved thousands of strangers to share their own personal journeys with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The video captured the moment Charles Sasser, a Korean war veteran, began to speak to the Abeyta’s family dog, Roscoe, at their home. Abeyta, a tech entrepreneur, says that she has seen her father "coo" and talk to his own two dogs, Molly and Cassy, on numerous occasions, but was surprised by “his clarity and the ability to get out a complete sentence, not just a word here and there.”
Abeyta, a mother of three, began to film part of the hour-long exchange between father and dog. With the help of her son, she edited and uploaded the clip to YouTube, primarily for her mother to share with her friends.
But within a day, people had begun emailing and posting thousands of comments on Reddit. The clip has been viewed over 162,000 times at the time of writing.
“I’m touched by the response to the video … They talked about how having a pet or connecting with music really gave them back a loved one with Alzheimer’s,” Abeyta told ABC News. “It’s been quite an amazing thing to hear people’s stories.”
Abeyta credits her mother, Pat Sasser, for taking care of her father on a daily basis.
“The true hero is my mom. This is her life’s work,” Abeyta said. “I shared the video but my mom is the one is the one who takes care of him by herself and I can’t give her enough credit.”