Loogootee, IN

College journalist finalizing a seven-year project to expose the dark truth behind Alzheimer's disease in Loogootee, IN

Braydyn The Bear Lents

Photo of Marilyn in an assisted living facility in Washington, Ind. Photo was taken in January 2017Photo byAmy Lents/Mother

In the morning hours of January 30, 2015, an elderly 68-year-old woman, walks into a Marathon gas station on East Broadway Avenue in the small town of Loogootee, Ind.

She had just filled too much gas into her white 2012 Chevrolet Impala LS and walks into the gas station’s convenience store. The woman simply asks a gruff female employee at the cash register, for more money to fill up her tank.

The woman then wanders around the store, and the already shook-up employee, calls someone the deranged woman already knew of, her sister Carolyn.

“When I got to the gas station, it became apparent that this would be one of the worst days of my life.” Carolyn once said in a conversation in 2019, as she recounted about what happened as she picked up her confused 69-year-old sister. “Once I saw her, I yanked her away from the register and brought her into my car where I drove her back to her house. It was unbearable to do, but I had to do it.”

The woman was Marilyn Jane Lents, a then 69-year-old resident from Loogootee, Ind. and she was my second grandmother. After this horrible day in the parking lot of a Marathon Gas station, my mother Amy (or Athena) and Carolyn, took her to get an MRI the very next week at RAYUS Radiology in Bloomington, Ind.

After enduring yelling and a nearly flat tire, the worst news was yet to come. After a month of waiting for the MRI to be scanned and processed by medical professionals, her primary care doctor in Shoals, Ind., Dr. Johnathan Cropp, announced to Amy and Jean the worst news of them all.

Marilyn was diagnosed with dementia, also known as Alzheimer’s disease.

Life would become unbearable for Amy, Jean, and the rest of our family. The previous summer had felt as if we were fighting the battle ourselves, as my grandmother became harder and harder to manage and keep at home.

Her disease was a mystery to us, and I wanted answers. At 13 years old, I began an independent investigation, not for a school project, but for journalism as well. This seven-year journey took me to places I never wanted to bare, and I asked so many licensed professionals about the disease and how to treat people with it.

From nursing home visits to assisted living facilities. Home care, health care, and even investigating the neighborhood around us, starting at the beginning of March, I am concluding a long study of the secrets, mysteries, family stories, and tales of abuse, trauma, and pain, that left me with one more question to ask, “What is causing so many people to get Alzheimer’s disease in Martin County, Ind. and it’s surrounding areas? Particularly in one area of the city passed Loogootee High School on the street of E 150 North in the Daviess County region of Loogootee. This is where my grandmother lived with her husband Jim since 1978.

Nine of our neighbors on the stretch of 150 North Street leading to a deserted cornfield, have had 9 out of 15 homes on the street full of neighbors who have or have not moved, but who all have had been diagnosed with or have died due to Alzheimer’s disease.

Changing waterlines and plumbing systems, along with the lack of mental health care and the rise of those who have had narcissistic personality disorder and eating disorders, have been the center point of this investigation.

Thanks to the courageous work of my mother, Amy and I, who I will happily call Athena in the articles, dove deep into this deserted problem.

This hit close to home with us and I hope that it does for those outside of Martin County city lines, and can raise questions in your backyard about the type of care your elders are receiving.

To understand the world, we go through elders, the oldest of us for all of history’s brightest answers. Sometimes, they might not remember.

Read more starting in March and April in an 8-part series of stories, neighbors, and those who have been affected by Alzheimer’s disease in Loogootee, Ind.

This is Project 12776.

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Student at Indiana University Bloomington, journalism major, Class of 2024, sports media minor, staff writer/journalist for Hoosiers Network, freelancer "It's called the American Dream cause you have to be asleep to believe it." -- George Carlin

Bloomington, IN

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