When Dan Gasby and his wife of 23 years, restaurateur and lifestyle guru B. Smith, learned she suffered from early onset Alzheimer’s disease three years ago, he had no idea that caring for her would be a round-the-clock job.
“It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever dealt with,” Gasby, 62, a TV producer, tells PEOPLE. “Anybody who is an Alzheimer’s care giver knows exactly what other caregivers are going through. It’s 24/7. The complexity and the intensity of it is very tough.”
Smith, 66, known to family and friends as Barbara, was diagnosed with the debilitating disease in 2013 after Gasby had noticed her become increasingly – and uncharacteristically – moody and forgetful.
Smith’s diagnosis came as she was continuing to build her own empire. Over the years, she opened three eponymous restaurants, wrote three cookbooks, hosted the nationally syndicated show B. Smith With Style, and was the first African American woman to grace the cover of Mademoiselle magazine – and launch her own brand of home goods (at Bed, Bath and Beyond.)
Now, she has one more addition to her already jam-packed resume: She and Gasby share their journey with Alzheimer’s in their memoir, Before I Forget: Love, Hope, Help, and Acceptance in Our Fight Against Alzheimer’s, which comes out January 19.
In addition to sharing details of their firsthand experiences with Alzheimer’s, Smith and Gasby also provide readers with information on the latest research and drug trials they discovered along the way.
“I want to help a lot of people,” says Smith, who was found following an hours-long search after she went missing in 2014 because of her illness.”
A 21st Century Civil Rights Issue
Gasby said he and Smith dedicated the book to Congress, in hopes that legislators will increase funding for research to find a cure for a disease he says affects mostly women and African Americans.
“This is a disease that should be beaten by this country with all of the technology and all of the smarts that we have,” he says. “We should be leading (the world) in this. Every 67 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The cost of care to a family is unbelievable.”
Caring for his wife, who has trouble with her short-term memory, “is overwhelming most of the time,” Gasby admits.
“I’m taking it one day at a time,” he says. “It’s extremely difficult. At times I feel like I am between the Titanic and the iceberg and the water is cold and it makes a difference which one I get on.”
For more on B. Smith and Dan Gasby’s journey with Alzheimer’s, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
But he carries on, day after day, because he cares about B. so much. “The real secret to love,” he says, “is that you gotta like who you love, because that s what’s going to take you through the tough things.
“She is without a doubt a decent person,” he says. “She has always found the good in people. She is selfless, not selfish.
She cares about people. You would be hard pressed to find someone who didn t like Barbara Smith or B. Smith.
Over the 28 years in the restaurant business, we got hundreds of letters that remind us of when she made a difference in someone’s life.”
Looking at her husband and smiling, Smith says, “He takes good care of me.”
Wiping away tears, she adds, “I love him “