Jan is Petersen’s wife, and in 2005 she was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s (also referred to as early-onset Alzheimer’s). She was a CBS News journalist herself, who had reported from Japan and the USSR for the network and CBS Radio.
Petersen recalls the struggle of seeing his wife’s memories lapse, and the pain of placing her in an assisted living facility.
“She remembers the idea of me and that I’m someone important in her life, but she doesn’t remember me,” Petersen told Porter.
He also talks about meeting someone new, a widow named Mary Nell.
“I know some people will condemn me for it, but the person I was married to doesn’t know me now,” he said. “It’s excruciating, but life goes on. It must.”
Petersen visits Jan two or three times a month, usually with Mary Nell. “We’re like a family of three, because Mary Nell also has become a caregiver,” Petersen said. The visits are hard.
Petersen’s book chronicling the experience of his family will be released June 15.