FAYETTEVILLE, AR (KNWA) - Alzheimer's affects the lives not only of those diagnosed, but of spouses, family members and friends. For some, supporting their spouse as the symptoms start to show is a task of true love.
"I was always the introverted nerd. She was the person who always made me look good... Big smile, great laugh, never met a stranger."
Guy Dallas first met Sue when she was 12 years old. He swept her off her feet six years later on their first date, and they tied the knot in 1956.
"We got married too young, we got married against the advice of both parents, but you know, that love was there where we were determined to make it and we did... I felt for the first few years of our marriage, is this really real? Maybe I ought to pinch myself. Do I really have this lady as my wife?"
While enjoying their golden years, he started noticing her forgetfulness. Simple things like not remembering she had turned on the thermostat.
"You label things, you label the sock drawer, label the underwear drawers, label items in the kitchen, and that's good for a while, but after awhile even that's not helpful."
Guy says the symptoms became more severe, and 10 years ago Sue was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
"Getting lost even in the house... You just learn to try to cope as best you can and what works today might not work tomorrow. Today she might want to take a shower, tomorrow she might be absolutely terrified of getting under that water... I literally could not take my eyes off of her or leave her because I didn't know what might happen. I mean, it was kind of a state of semi panic all the time."
The disease quickly progressed in the last year, but Sue is still smiling.
"She's so gregarious and has such an outgoing personality and loves people so much that she just went in there and fit right in from the first moment."
Five months ago, she was moved into an Alzheimer's care unit.
"That is the hardest decision you'll ever make in your life... The guilt that you have following that decision is enormous, even though you know intellectually it was the right thing to do... My wife needed more care than I was literally able to give."
Guy makes it through the lonely moments by making regular visits to see his love.
"She charms everybody. She charms the people at the nursing home, I mean she charms all the staff. She's just very charming."
Even though she usually recognizes Guy, she often forgets they are married. But if Sue had the choice, she would pick him again.
"She asked me a week ago if I had a girlfriend and I said no I don't, and she said well you're a good looking guy you ought to have a girlfriend. So I said, will you be my girlfriend and she said yeah I will."
They are taking on daily challenges step by step and hand in hand.
"Whether it's from a power higher above or where it comes from, you find the strength to get through it... It's difficult, but that battle is certainly worth it and your loved one is always going to be your loved one."
And Guy will forever stay by Sue's side.
"We're still a team. It's not the same team it was after all these years, but we're still a team and we will be until the end."
Guy and Sue have participated in a drug trial, they are constantly advocating for the disease, reaching out to lawmakers like Congressman Steve Womack, and are trying to make people aware about Alzheimer's. Even though Guy knows their work will most likely not help his generation, he is hoping it will make a difference for his kids and grandkids. He went on to say there is now even a Guy and Sue Dallas Advocacy Award.
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