Saving Memories Together: Part Two

GREENVILLE, Maine (WABI) - When it comes to this dark disease, support is such an important tool. Support for the researchers, support for patients and for those taking care of their loved ones every single day.

"Some days are harder than others," says Debbie Jones.

It's a safe bet that most days during the last 11 years that Debbie Jones has owned her laundromat here in Greenville have been filled with hardwork, family, and laughter. Three things that are top priorities in the daily lives of Debbie and her twin sister, Laurie.

"It a little overwhelming, so I just pitched in and helped," says Laurie Fling.

It's an ideal place for their mother and her dog, Bandit, to also spend the day.

"I think it's terrific. I couldn't be in a better place then with them," says Maureen Gaudet.

It's hard to tell that behind Maureen Gaudet's beautiful smile is someone battling the irreversible and progressive brain disorder, Alzheimer's disease. The great-grandmother has devoted her life to her family, and now they're giving that devotion back to her.

"I'm fortunate that she can live with me. It just wasn't safe for her. It's still like living on her own, only there's somebody there to help her if she needs the help. Because the memory thing, with the Alzheimer's, is progressing. A lot," says Fling.

Laurie and her sister are her full-time caregivers, a role many family members take on for their loved ones. According to the Alzheimer's Association, 16-million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer's and other dementias.

"There really are so many challenges that they face on a regular basis, and it impacts everybody so differently," says Katie Luce, Community Events Manager with the Alzheimer's Association.

Katie meets people throughout the region in a similar situation as Debbie and Laurie. The Walk to End Alzheimer's is one of their main fundraisers for research her sister-in-law is working on at the Jackson Laboratory. It's also an outlet for those providing support, to hear from others, and to find out about resources the association provides, like their free helpline.

"That is staffed 24/7, 365 with qualified professionals that are going to answer any questions that you have."

Spreading the word about the helpline means a lot to Katie. She knows first-hand how difficult it can be for caregivers because her mom and aunt are providing that care for her gram, Maureen.

"My mom and my aunt, are, they're amazing. For them to be able to just sort of roll with the punches and sort of keep things light and funny, that has been such an inspiration to me and the rest of the work that I do," says Luce.

It's a role these sisters say they happily take on every day...no matter what happens.

"I look at it, doing the right thing," says Fling.

"Exactly. They gave up for us," says Jones.

They do it with hard work, family, and laughter which they say is really the best medicine they can provide until an actual cure or treatment is found.

"Positive energy. Positive energy. I think negativity makes it worse," says Fling.

Until then, the women in this family will continue their different roles as caregivers, outreach, volunteer fundraisers, and researchers in this fight against Alzheimer's.

"Enough of this disease. It needs to go. It does. Maybe we won't live long enough to see it, but I think they will," says Fling.

It's important to stress the free caregivers helpline provided by the Alzheimer's Association can be used anytime, every day, for anything a caregiver needs, from advice to care consultation.

That number is 1-800-272-3900.

Information on the disease itself and more can be found at ALZ.org.