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Alzheimer's: A conversation with a family coping with the disease

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Courtesy of the WNY Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association
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The Movie “Still Alice” opens in local theaters today. The film has been credited with its’ accurate portrayal of a woman coping with Alzheimer’s Disease. WBFO’s Cheryl Hagen spoke with a Western New York couple facing the same circumstances.

“I try keeping my mind busy and that seems to help a lot,” says 64-year-old Wayne Bundy who was diagnosed with early onset or young onset Alzheimer’s disease in November of 2012.

Wayne says his coworkers first noticed the symptoms. “People started noticing that I wasn’t as key on a lot of my work ethics… so I kind of put it off and figured, well, I had a bad day or something.”

Wayne now keeps himself occupied with puzzles, trains and bowling as well as visiting with friends. His wife of 43 years, Karen, says there are good days and bad ones. Wayne agrees, saying “A Bad day is when I get really stressed out.  It’s sometimes why I start forgetting.  Right then and there I kind of go away and think about it for a while.”

Karen goes on to say,I think the biggest thing is the frustration that he feels that he can’t do the things he used to do. I just look at the fact that he used to draw blueprints. We went to the doctor the other day and now it’s difficult to draw a clock.” 

Karen says she has learned to cope by creating routines and making adjustments in how she handles various situations, knowing there’s no way to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s.

"It’ is frightening to think about what lies ahead because you know about the disease, you know how it can progress, you know what it can do,” says Karen, “When somebody has cancer, you have more of a direction. Not that it’s a better thing to have, believe me, but it’s different. It’s a physical ailment that it seems you have some control over some of it. This one, there’s no cure, there’s only hope to delay what’s inevitable.”

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Credit Courtesy of the WNY Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association

Karen and Wayne have six sons and six grandsons. She is concerned about their futures as well - and hoping time is good to her family.

“You don’t know, you don’t know how quickly. It could be at a standstill and then all of a sudden it could take a quick downward trend,” says Karen, “We’re hoping to get another 10 or 15 years out of the way things are now. I think we have to be optimistic because if not, it would be too hard.”

As for advice on coping with Alzheimer’s, Wayne and Karen say the best way to handle the disease is to be open about it and seek support.

“I think people need to know not to be embarrassed that they have it or hide the fact that someone in their family has it,” says Karen, “Don’t hide it because it’s not going away.”

Wayne adds, “There’s all kind of challenges out there and just go day by day.”

The couple says the Alzheimer’s Association of Western New York offers support groups for those in need.