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A Story to Remember

Betty Smith and Bill Biergans are familiar faces at Clark. Residents of the Franklin campus since 2019, they immediately embraced their new home, participated in activities and most importantly, developed many new friendships—friendships that unbeknownst to them would become an integral part of their story. A story that begins with Betty’s diagnosis of dementia and her desire to share her journey.

An intelligent, active woman, Betty is a wife, mother, educator, pastor, and friend to many. So, it was confusing to her when normal daily activities started to become difficult. At first, she would notice little things—forgetfulness, not finding the right word, balance issues, and getting a little weaker. She describes it as “an odd mix of symptoms.” But when Betty could not recall her famous chocolate chip cookie recipe she had been making from memory since the age of 8 years old, she knew there was a problem. Bill too was noticing small changes in Betty and decided to ask Chris Simons, Clark’s expert Dementia Consultant to help them. This subsequently led to her diagnosis of dementia.

Betty Smith

Betty Smith

Betty, the strong, brave, giving, faithful and selfless person was now faced with the decision of when to share this news with her family and friends. Because Bill also has a heart condition, she wanted to minimize the stress and anxiety he would surely face as her husband and caregiver.

Shame, fearfulness, and misunderstanding are often associated with memory loss, with many choosing to hide their diagnosis for as long as possible. But not Betty. She knew she was at a critical crossroad and resolved to move through this journey with as much strength as possible. She courageously chose to share this news with her family from the beginning. “I knew I was going to need all the support I could get, and our children are my strength. But I don’t know what I’d do without Bill.”

Bill has been an amazing help to Betty despite his own physical challenges. “Betty often has hallucinations, and we openly talk about them,” he says tenderly and with a tear in his eye. “Sometimes we laugh about them, and sometimes we cry.”

Left: Betty Smith and her children Right: Chris Simons with Bill and Betty

Left: Betty Smith and her children Right: Chris Simons with Bill and Betty

Next came the question of when to tell their neighbors—those people likely to notice changes in Betty’s behavior. Taking the leap to tell them sooner than later, Betty and Bill were touched and comforted by their love, support, and commitment to help.

“Getting friends and family involved early on is extremely important, along with education and participation in support groups,” says Chris Simons. A confidant, friend and advisor to Betty and Bill, Chris knew Betty’s story needed to be shared with as many people as possible. It was decided to create a video documentary of her journey and it is truly inspirational. We are hopeful to soon share announcements of dates and locations to view this heartfelt production.

Betty says, “Creating this video is an opportunity to raise awareness, reduce the stigma and advocate for those living with this terrible disease. We can’t change where we are right now, but we can change how we get there if we change peoples’ attitudes. If I can help one person or family, this will be one of the most important things I’ve done.” 

Talk with a Senior Living Advisor

If you think your loved one could benefit from Memory Care at Clark, talk with one of our Senior Living Advisors at or 616-278-6520 or fill out the form below to schedule a personalized consultation to discuss your loved one’s situation and see if Clark is the right fit.

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