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Fighting the struggles of memory loss

Couple learning to cope with Alzheimer’s disease

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Judy and Gary Quinton will soon celebrate 45 years of marriage, the memories of which have become even more precious in recent months.

Gary was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease this past January. Despite being in the early stages of the disease, he has begun to rely more and more on Judy to fill in the gaps in his memory.

A former English teacher, Gary, 70, said one of his biggest frustrations has been knowing his wife now has to think for two.

"She can’t just go on being Judy… it’s almost like being a teacher or a parent, dealing with me. She’s got to think for two all the time," he said.

The Quintons, who live in Riverview, became concerned about Gary’s forgetfulness even before he was officially diagnosed with Alzheimers.

"There were a few things that just weren’t making sense. It got a little more apparent that I (really had) to double think and Judy (had) to fill in gaps more and more," said Gary, adding he often struggles with his short-term memory.

Judy acknowledged Gary’s constant requests to fill in the gaps can be frustrating, but said her biggest challenge has been accepting the disease.

"Even though I understood the diagnosis, there was still the frustration. I would try and set things up so we’d be on a level playing field, and it still wasn’t working," she said.

Judy said it’s only been recently that she began to accept the changes to their marriage.

"Now I’ve realized he’s (in) a good space. He’s still in his early stages and we have this open window that we want to take advantage of. I’ve accepted that I’ve got a certain role, but I don’t have to mother him," she said.

"He’s not a child, and he’s going to make mistakes."

The Quintons say the assistance they have received from the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba has been a tremendous help in learning to cope with the disease.

Judy will be among hundreds of caregivers who will attend the organization’s upcoming Care4U conference. The conference will provide information and support to family and friends caring for Alzheimers sufferers.

This is the second year the society will host the conference. This year’s event will be held Sat., Nov. 3, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Canadian Mennonite University, located at 500 Shaftesbury Blvd.

"Going to the Alzheimer’s Society is really one of the best things we could have done. It’s phenomenal we have those supports for both of us," Judy said.

Maria Mathews, manager of client support for the society, said the purpose of the conference is to offer support and resources for family caregivers.

"(It’s) a day of learning for caregivers to give them opportunities to be updated on research and (have) available resources to assist in reducing caregiver stress and provide more insight into the disease and the journey of the disease so relationships in the families can be maintained without the common factors that occur when families are under extreme stress," she said.

Judy said the assistance she has received from the society has helped her accept the challenges she and Gary face.

"It does (scare me) to think of what’s ahead, but you just put it into perspective, one day at a time, because you can’t control it, so why bother being anxious," she said.

danielle.finch@canstarnews.com

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