"When a person dies, they're gone in an instant," says Len Engstrom. "But when a person goes to Alzheimer's, they fade away over five or six years."
Since 2002, Len (pictured right) has watched his wife Fay's personality disappear, piece by piece.
"She used to love to quilt [she was] very creative," he says. "She was my wings."
When Fay was diagnosed in 2002, Len began a Colorado Springs support group for spouses who care for loved ones with Alzheimer's or less common types of dementia. At 88, Len still participates in the group's twice-monthly meetings, and also attends workshops at the local Alzheimer's Association chapter to learn more about his wife's illness.
For the first years after Fay's diagnosis, Len was her sole caregiver. After a long bath one afternoon, Fay wouldn't get out of the tub, and Len had to lift his delirious wife from the water. Soon after, in February 2006, Len decided that Fay should move to a secure assisted-living community for her safety. In their last days living together, Fay thought she was just dating Len; at the end of the day, she'd ask him to leave the Liberty Heights apartment they shared together.
Len still resides there, and drives the six miles to see his wife every day.
"You need to write about the support," he says, referencing the association's groups, workshops, counseling and educational resources. "People need to know there's support out there."
Alzheimer's Association "Memories in the Making" Open House Art Celebration
Shops at Briargate, former Camille La Vie space, Suite 427
Thursday, April 5, 3 p.m.
A free look at the artwork available in the association's May 12 auction; for more, call 266-8773.