Caring for Your Parents: Life with Dementia
ANCHORAGE - Living with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease can be a challenge, especially as you watch the disease progress and the person that you love change with it. In the last ten years June Juleson has seen those changes in her husband Dick.
At 83 years old, Dick and June Juleson have acquired a lifetime of memories. The couple met and married in Kodiak in 1948 when they were barely 19 years old. As they sit on their couch looking at wedding photos Dick is asked if he remembers that day.
“It was a long time ago,” he said, pausing, then adds with a big laugh, “but I think I was there!”
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s ten years ago hasn’t dampened Dick’s sense of humor. The former Marine describes himself as a guy with no worries; but for June, it’s a different story. Sometimes she can’t help but worry.
“Whenever he’s doing anything I keep my eye out for safety reasons.”
Over the years she has watched her husband change. She said it started with confusion over paying bills. Dick would pay and sometimes pay again. June found magazine subscriptions that were paid through 2017 before she intervened.
Then he stopped spending time in his basement shop, still filled with the tools he used to cherish.
But if Dick is no longer the “handyman” of the house, he is still a helper. He helps June with daily tasks like putting dishes away or folding laundry. Sometimes he gets confused but June said it’s important to let him try. She said if anything, loving someone with Alzheimer’s has taught her patience.
“You need to let them do whatever they can do, even if it takes longer. They need to feel needed just like we do.”
Now on the eve of their 65th wedding anniversary, it’s clear that Dick has not forgotten his bride.
“He’s very good at reminding me that he loves me,” said June. “That he has always loved me and that he has never loved anyone else.”
“As long as she’s happy I’m happy,” said Dick with a grin.
It’s a simple philosophy that has taken them far and taught them to appreciate every day.
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