Local couple finds new normal in face of Alzheimer's diagnosis

Valentine's Day is a special occasion for the couple

FOREST, Va. – Valentine's Day is a special time for Wiley and Carole Waters. 

"Valentine's Day in 1994 was our first opportunity to be together in a public setting with a lot of our friends," said Wiley Waters. 

The pair both lost their spouses after long marriages, and this summer will make it 25 years since they've been married. Now the couple is battling a new challenge. 

Carole was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2017.

"I didn't like it. I wish it would go away. I had to learn to accept it," said Carole. 

And accepting it is what the Waters are doing. They have a calendar in the home to help Carole remember events.

Quilting is a habit the 79-year-old doesn't plan on quitting. 

And as for their children and grandchildren, "They have very busy lives but they are sensitive to Carole's need to be reminded of things," said Wiley. 

According to the Alzheimer's Association, over 140,000 people in Virginia are living with the disease. 

In the U.S., 5 million people have it and that number is expected to double in 2020. 

"It's going to be harder for people to access care and resources. We want to help people learn about the disease and detect and diagnose as early as possible," said Lauren Blackshaw, family services manager for the Alzheimer's Association.

The pair say they didn't ignore the early signs, and are glad Carole was diagnosed early enough to receive help for her symptoms. 

"A diagnosis of Alzheimer's, dementia, is not a death sentence. You can control whether it controls you or not. We have elected to see this as a new journey. And to enjoy the days that we can, the moments that we can, and build memories as we can," said Wiley. 

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