A Love Story…

…Still Strong Despite Alzheimer’s Disease

The love story of Eugene Lyons, 88, and his wife, Laura, 83, of Vacaville, continues even as they face a life changed forever by Alzheimer’s disease. Today they are among the families who rely on the respite care provided by the NorthBay Adult Day Center on the VacaValley campus.

Married for 55 years, it was love at first sight. “When I met my wife I knew she was the one for me. She was beautiful, inside and out,” Eugene says. “I told her I was ‘already married to the Air Force’ and she gave me her full support. We were married eight months later.”

The couple moved to Vacaville in 1967 and raised three children. Laura was active managing a nursery school and teaching Sunday School at their church.

Four or five years ago Eugene noticed that something was not quite right with Laura. His warm and gentle wife was slowly changing before his eyes.

“I was seeing an entirely new person,” Eugene remembers. When Laura became confused by ordinary tasks, Eugene took her to the doctor. Her diagnosis was Alzheimer’s disease and it was progressing rapidly. Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible degeneration of the brain that causes disruptions in memory, cognition and personality.

A friend suggested Eugene contact the Adult Day Center and he found a safe haven that helps him keep his beloved wife at home. Laura now spends three days a week at the center.

For Eugene, his wife’s only caregiver, the respite time has saved his life. “Every day is a tug of war and I have no time to rest at night,” Eugene says. “I do everything I can for her, from a daily bath and moisturizing her skin to caring for her clothes and cooking healthy meals. I watch her as you would watch a 5-year-old child.”

With Laura safely at the Adult Day Center, Eugene has time to unwind and take care of the ordinary details of life. “I feel so much more comfortable with Laura here,” he says at the center. “This is a genuinely loving and caring place. You can call the staff ‘aides,’ but they are all angels to me. They do a fine job of looking after her.”

Eugene has also found comfort at the Caregivers Support Group, which meets monthly at the center.

“We understand each other because we share the same problems,” he says of the group. “We help each other cope with the stresses of dealing with this disease.”

Roughly 5.4 million Americans
of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Every 68 seconds, someone in the United States is diagnosed with the disease. Family members caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease often experience high levels of emotional stress and depression. Support groups offer one way for families to learn ways to cope with their role as caregiver.

Although life is forever changed for the Lyons family, Eugene feels blessed to have his wife at home. “Our greatest joy at this stage in our lives is that we still have each other,” Eugene says. “Things are not what they used to be, but you’ve got to enjoy what you have and make it work.”

A World War II veteran and part of the Greatest Generation, believing in honor, valor, God and country, Eugene has one answer when people ask why he does this: “She’s my wife. She would do the same for me.”

Alzheimer’s Resource Center

The Alzheimer’s Resource Center opened at VacaValley Hospital in 1996. Staffed by NorthBay Guild volunteers, the center helps the families of those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia find much-needed resources and reference materials.

All services are free at the resource center, which is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. To reach the center, call (707) 624-7971.

NorthBay Adult Day Center

Families caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia have been able to turn to the NorthBay Adult Day Center for respite care since the service opened on the VacaValley campus in 2003. The center offers a safe, structured setting where people with these diseases can enjoy group activities, which emphasize their remaining faculties.

It is the only facility in Vacaville that helps families keep their loved ones living at home, according to Sandy Perez, program manager.

Open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, the Center offers full-day, half-day and extended day visits. Financial help, in the form of a sliding scale for services and scholarships, is available.

The program includes exercise, music, arts and crafts, baking, gardening, hot meals and individual attention. The center’s goal is to support each person in maintaining his or her highest degree of independence and functioning for as long as possible.

For further information, call the center at (707) 624-7970.

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