By Charlotte Nisbet
A doting 76 year old husband is using photo albums to help his dementia stricken wife remember their lives together.
James Dargen was devastated when his teenage sweetheart Judy, 74, was diagnosed with dementia three years ago.
After tying the knot in 1965, James was determined to never give up on his wife who was fast forgetting their 53 years together.
Now, despite the disease rapidly progressing, James uses their photo albums to help Judy remember the memories they have shared.
They have recently been dubbed the real life couple from the film – The Notebook – whereby the main character battles dementia and her husband battles to help her remember their lives.
James is so devoted to caring for Judy at home that he has since learnt how to do his wife’s make-up and hair.
The pensioner, from Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, said: “Judy smiles when she sees the photos in the albums but it’s difficult to know if she remembers.
“Going through our photos is one of my favourite things to do as it reminds me of the amazing life together.
“We first met when Judy was 14 years old but it wasn’t until our 20’s that we got married.
“Our romance has been a whirlwind and we went on to have two son’s together.
“It has been hard watching dementia take over Judy’s life as she was once such a loving and caring woman.
“But I’ll never give up on my wife, I care for her at our home together and while I’m fit enough, I’ll be her full time carer.
“I don’t think I’m doing anything extraordinary, Judy took care of me for 53 years but now it’s my turn to look after her.”
James uses their photo albums most days to help Judy and often talks her through each stage of their life so she understands.
He added: “It breaks my heart that she doesn’t remember our life but I do my best to try and help her remember.
“The photo albums are great as I’ve organised them so they show a timeline of Judy’s life.
“She does smile when she looks at them but dementia has taken over.”
After Judy lost the ability to put on her own make-up and look after the appearance, James took matters into his own hands.
He said: “I taught myself how to do Judy’s make-up and hair.
“It doesn’t take me long as I keep it natural but I ensure she always looks her best.
“She has a little pamper once a week and has her hair and nails done.
“Judy used to be a hairdresser and model so her appearance has always meant a lot to her which is why I still make the effort for her now.”
James has refused to place Judy in a care home as he believes no one can care for her as well as he can.
He added: “I look after Judy 24/7 and although some people think it’s stressful, it’s not.
“Judy is happy at home and I would never want to leave her.
“I hope our story shows how strong our love for each other is, she means the world to me and we’ve had such an amazing life together.
“I have been told our story has similarities to the film The Notebook but I’m just trying to make the best out of a bad situation.
“Being with Judy still makes me incredibly happy, our lives are just different now.”