Two women among those who cope in Alzheimer's support group

Published: Monday, October 15, 2012 at 12:09 PM.

CRESTVIEW — Joan Williamson and Barbara Barton know much about Alzheimer’s effects.

Both residents became close friends after attending Alzheimer's Family Services’ monthly support group meetings at Covenant Hospice in Crestview. The women bonded after their husbands received a positive diagnosis of the incurable disease — and have leaned on each other ever since.

"We often make it a point to have lunch afterwards," Williamson said. “I call (Barton) every morning to make sure she is all right."

Alzheimer’s — a progressive, irreversible neurological disorder — usually affects victims when they are 65 or older, but it can strike in the 40s or 50s. According to the Alzheimer's Association’s website,, 5.4 million Americans have the disease.

Dealing with Alzheimer’s can be challenging, the women said.

"It's a terrible, terrible disease," Williamson said. "It's like watching your loved one die a little each day."

Williamson had to put Donald, her husband of 55 years, in the Crestview Rehab facility more than a year ago. She was his sole caregiver when he was diagnosed with the disease 14 years ago. Williamson said the 79-year-old is in Alzheimer's’ final stage and barely speaks. While the first of seven stages often shows no symptoms, indications of cognitive decline increase with later stages. 

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