(ABC NEWS)- Mary Jane Gacono suffers from dementia, but her husband and daughter have developed routines to try to help jog her fading memory.
“Mary will say, ‘There’s a picture, who’s that? Who is that?’ and it’s one of our children,” her husband, Carl Gacono, told ABC News. “She all of a sudden doesn’t recognize some very close family members.”
Carl, 88, and Mary Jane, 86, have been married nearly 70 years — since 1950 — and together have six children, 12 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
Their daughter, Becky Gacono, 55, has spent time trying to help her mother remember the past, such as by reminding her of how she first met her husband. “Throwing a snowball,” she told her mother.
“Oh yeah. Oh yes! Oh yes, yes,” Mary Jane exclaimed.
Doctors suggested Carl come up with a routine to help stimulate his wife’s memory. He reminds her daily of the same things so that she can more easily make associations.
“I always tell her she has two earrings, she has two necklaces, and she has a watch and a separate bracelet on there. So I say she has ‘2, 2, and 2,'” he explained. “Tomorrow she might say, ‘Where’s my third necklace?’ And I would say to her — ‘it’s 2, 2, 2. Remember?'”
Their daughter writes about her parents’ journey, sharing photos, updates and even a glimpse into what their life was like “BD,” before dementia, as Becky details on a designated Facebook page, called “Our journey through our mom’s dementia.”
Becky said her parents and family have found truth in an age-old adage; laughter is the best medicine.
“We just noticed that, if we were happy, she was happier,” Becky said. “She actually feels better when we’re enjoying each other — she doesn’t know us by name anymore, and that’s OK. But she does know that we’re people she loves and that’s enough for all of us.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, which is the most common form of dementia, and that number increases every year.
Despite any difficulties, Carl said he is still thankful every day for his time with Mary Jane.
“I wouldn’t trade the experience I’ve had taking care of my wife, OK. I’d like to think she wouldn’t trade the experience of having [and] taking care of me,” he reasoned. “We’ve had a great relationship. We’ve known each other for 70 years. We’ve been married for 67, I’d marry her for another 67 tomorrow.”