DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Life for retired Navy Commander Richard Erickson and his family change in an instant when he was diagnosed with a mysterious illness.

“This is definitely the thing that rocked our world the most,” said Richard’s wife and caretaker, Kristen Erickson.

Richard said that the Cleveland Clinic initially said he had corticobasil degeneration.

“Then the base and the VA were talking about an early onset Alzheimer’s. I don’t know exactly what I have but I can tell you that my short term memory… I can’t hold things in,” Richard said.

Due to his condition, his wife Kristen now serves as his caretaker. They found support and a community when they started working with the Dayton VA’s Caregiver Program eight years ago.

“I never felt alone. I never felt that I was going to have to figure it out by myself,” Kristen said.

The VA offers support for caregivers through classes, training, stipends and more.

“You can do anything but you can’t do everything, and that’s where the VA comes in hand,” said Erinn Heymann, caregiver support program manager.

Kristen said that military personnel have that while in the service, that you can just trust one another. She said that just continued through the caregiver program for them.

Kristen and Richard continue to love and care for each other day by day.

“I would strongly encourage people to reach out to the VA and trust them, just try,” Kristen said. “I know it’s scary to try things out of your comfort zone but if I hadn’t tried those thing we wouldn’t be in a whole different place.”