The moment former Air Force pilot Dewayne Rudd walked his father into Thomson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore, he knew his dad would be in good hands.
The staff's care and passion left a favorable impression on Rudd, and during the two years he volunteered at the Wilmore nursing home, he created a documentary and book — Fading Away at Wilmore — to tell its story.
"I felt ... the story needed to be told," said Rudd, a UPS pilot who lives in Louisville.
It's a story of love and hope, despite the heartbreak of seeing his father, Vernon Rudd Jr., fall over each cliff that comes with Alzheimer's disease.
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As a volunteer at Thomson-Hood, one of three veteran care facilities operated by the state, De wayne Rudd saw the care given to each veteran, the patriotic décor, the patience and the effect all of that had on people like his father.
Sometimes it drew things out of the veterans that could have been lost otherwise, he said.
For instance, when one patient heard a patriotic song, maybe God Bless America, he stood up from his wheelchair to sing along in what Rudd described as an awe-inspiring, professional-sounding voice. When the song ended, the veteran sat back down and the fog seemed to roll back over him.
Vernon Rudd Jr. grew up in a poor West Virginia family, so poor that his parents often could not afford to buy him textbooks. After high school he joined the military and trained as a tank operator at Fort Knox before joining the Korean War effort.
For him, the symptoms of Alzheimer's began slowly, and "It took us a little while in the beginning to put some pieces together," his son said. "First thing we noticed is he would kind of ask the same question over and over again."
The signs gradually become more obvious, and more severe. For his wife, caring for him on her own became too much.
After months of contemplating the best way to care for his father, Dewayne Rudd found Thomson-Hood.
"I was saying, 'Mom, we need to do something,'" he said. His mother "finally let me take him over to apply."
Vernon Rudd was 75 when he went to live at Thomson-Hood. He died three years later, in 2006.
During that time, De wayne Rudd volunteered at the center, feeding the veterans, talking to them and taking them on walks. It allowed him to understand the disease's effects and cycles, and he came to believe that time spent with patients is valuable for them.
"What I found, a lot of times is the family members won't visit because they think five minutes after they visit, (the patient) will forget," Dewayne Rudd said. "I'm optimistic. I like to think they're more aware than we think. Assume that they can understand more. I would rather make a mistake in that direction than not go at all. ...
"I would tell anyone that if you assume there's a lot of your loved one in there, someday you may be glad you did it."
In addition to helping families, Rudd hopes his book will help people realize that caring for dementia and Alzheimer's patients is expensive and labor-intensive.
Alzheimer's and dementia cost the United States about $226 billion annually, according to the Alzheimer's Association, and that cost could rise to $1.1 trillion by 2050. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia.
"If we get dementia in the same statistical proportion of our parents, there is a crisis coming," Dewayne Rudd said. "I don't have a political agenda. However, if the book becomes successful, I would certainly advocate looking at Thomson-Hood as a model."
Readers may use tablets or computers to access the complete multimedia version of the book.
"People who read the book tell me that the audio and video really connects you," Rudd said. "They told me, 'It's like I was walking with you.'"
Profits from the book go toward the 501(c)3 nonprofit Cross and Flag Productions, which Rudd created to tell human interest stories through video, audio and other forms of media.