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Jul 3, 2015 12:08 PM

Alzheimer's disease a challenge for caregivers

RYE - One in 10 people over age 65 suffer from some form of dementia. Often, loved ones who care for their spouses don't get the emotional support they need to deal with the grief and detachment that come with the devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.

Woody and Judy Sponaugle have been married for 53 years. She is one of the 4.5 million Americans suffering with Alzheimer's disease and he is hoping to help some of the men like him on the Seacoast who serve as their wives' caretakers.

"We met in college and it was a rainy day and I went in to interview with the C.I.A.," he said. "She had been in there interviewing and she came out of the interview."

Her memory of their meeting, however, is considerably more vague.

"I guess I do remember that, but we had so many people coming in and going," she said.

"Where did I ask you for our first date," Woody Sponaugle asks her.

"I haven't any idea," she said.

As Judy's memories fade, Woody depends on photo books to help her remember and cherish their life together.

"It's a difficult situation. Is it 73 percent bad? 82 percent or 56 percent? It's very hard to say," he said.

But despite her losses, she can still talk about major life events such as living overseas.

"Thailand was interesting because there were always lots of things to do," she said.

"And you spoke Thai," her husband reminds her.

"Yup, I could, and Woody could speak it too, but not quite as easily."

The challenges of caregiving have led Woody Sponaugle to start a support group for male caregivers on the Seacoast and he's hoping to get more men involved.

"Because no one comes into caregiving, unless you are a nurse, knowing how to do the job. But all of a sudden, it is your full-time job," he said.

To find out more about Alzheimer support groups in NH, check out this link.

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