Woman Shares Inspiring Love Story After Husband Receives Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis
RICHMOND, KY–Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love, and while for some searching for love can be difficult, Donna and Wayne Dillman, 76, didn’t have to look very far. They met in the 1960s at Berea College in Kentucky during a homecoming parade. Their first date didn’t happen because Wayne stood her up, but it was his charm that convinced her to give it another try, and the rest is history.
Their love story spans more than five decades of military service, traveling and raising two sons along the way. They are both retired and recently decided to spend their golden years in North Carolina. Donna will never forget the memories they created, but that is not the case for Wayne. He was recently diagnosed with fast-progressing Alzheimer’s disease and moved into Dominion Senior Living of Richmond to receive quality care. She says her love for her husband is stronger now than ever before, and to raise awareness she is opening up about the struggles along the way.
“Alzheimer’s Disease is very hard on everyone, but just because he has this disease doesn’t mean I love him less. Through sickness and in health, love never fails,” said Donna Dillman. “For Wayne it happened so fast. I was watching my husband disappear. The only word I could use to describe it is shock. I was shocked. I thought we had the rest of our lives planned out, but God and Alzheimer’s had a different plan. I never thought this would happen in a million years.
“I thought I could take care of him on my own, but it was hard. I knew I needed help, so we moved back to Kentucky and Wayne is now in memory care at Dominion,” Dillman explained. “It’s hard for me to think about it, because we were living the dream. We retired where we wanted to, and we have two fantastic sons, Scott and Chris; their wives, Jill and Becky, and four beautiful grandchildren. Wayne did so many wonderful things for our family. He was committed to our marriage, his kids, his job and our home. It’s his love for all of us that helped us accept this diagnosis.”
Wayne Dillman is a veteran. He was drafted shortly after getting married and went into the Air Force. He went to pilot school for about a year before he earned his wings. He served in the Air Force for more than 20 years and was stationed in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Alabama, Alaska, North Carolina and New Jersey.
He had a passion for flying, which his children inherited. Both of their sons served in the Air Force and are currently commercial pilots for Delta and Jet Blue. After leaving the military, Wayne got a job as a counselor and Donna worked for the county government. It was two years ago that they decided to move to North Carolina to retire. Donna says that shortly after, she had to have knee surgery and Wayne took care of her. But that’s when she started to notice changes, and she wasn’t the only one.
Her sister was in town and realized something wasn’t right. Donna knew he always had problems navigating, but this time was different. Fearing the worst, she made an appointment for him to see a neurologist, and her fears became a reality. Wayne was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She says it progressed quickly over the past year, but since moving into Dominion Senior Living of Richmond he is doing much better.
She holds onto the memories from the last 53 years as she helps her husband through this disease. She also wants people to educate themselves about Alzheimer’s because it can happen to anyone.
“Wayne and I are complete opposites, but it worked for us,” Dillman said. “He would have one way of doing things, and I would have another. We would just look at each other sometimes and start cracking up. We have a unique love story, and it’s something I cherish every day. Before his diagnosis I started to sew again, and he would come upstairs and sit in a rocking chair in the room and read. Sometimes you don’t have to say anything to show a nice gesture.
“I just want people to not take things for granted, because one day your loved one may not remember the same precious memories you do,” Dillman said. “Our love is still there. I see the spark in his eye when I am with him, but we need more people to be educated about the devil’s disease. I wish I knew more before, but the help he is receiving now is top notch, and I know we will get through this together.”
“Wayne and Donna have a bond that can’t be broken, and their love story is truly inspiring to many,” said Jessica Lee, executive director. “We are thankful that the Dillmans chose Dominion Senior Living of Richmond to provide Wayne with the best care possible. Receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is difficult for many families. We want to be a support system that family, friends and caregivers can rely on, so we are starting a support group, so people can come learn more about this disease and how to be there for one another.”