Mary Jane Gacono has struggled with dementia for nearly a decade — and her loving husband, Carl, has been at her side every step of the way.
Carl has been eager to have his wife remain at their Annville, Pennsylvania, home for as long as possible, taking charge of most of her care. But one recent morning, Carl, 88, had a doctor’s appointment and had to enlist the help of the couple’s daughter, Becky, to help care for Mary Jane while he was away.
While she stepped into her dad’s shoes, Becky got a special look at Carl’s super specific (and sweet) morning routine for his wife of nearly 68 years.
“I went over in the morning to help her get ready because he was heading out,” Becky, 55, tells PEOPLE. “That’s his morning routine: getting her to the bathroom, helping her shower, getting her dressed, getting her breakfast and then just being with her throughout the day.”
Becky first shared the sweet story with Love What Matters, writing that Carl spent time going over Mary Jane’s morning routine so she was sure to get it just right. A very important step, Carl said, is putting on Mary Jane’s jewelry: “Don’t forget the bracelet with the heart goes on the left with her watch. The other two bracelets go on the right,” Becky wrote in the post.
“People with dementia … when things are out of order, it tends to make things a little bit harder. So [Carl] tends to keep to a routine that she is used to,” Becky tells PEOPLE.
“She likes to have her jewelry on. Her necklaces and her bracelet and her watch, then on her other arm are her other bracelets. She brushes her hair and then after they’re done with all of that, they head out to eat breakfast together at the table.”
Becky says that throughout her parents’ marriage, Mary Jane has always been supportive of Carl and has been his “biggest cheerleader.”
“She dedicated her life to loving him and supporting him in all his dreams and being successful. I do think he feels that now it’s his turn,” she says. “He never regrets a day that he has with her, I believed that wholeheartedly. But I do believe he’s tired, exhausted and doing the best he can.”
Caretakers help during the weekdays and, along with Becky, some of the couple’s other children also come to help care for Mary Jane — as Becky says it’s clear that her father is “tired” and “exhausted.”
“My dad really struggles some days being exhausted and watching his wife who he dearly loves slip away. But he’s doing the best he can. It’s unconditional love without a doubt. And I think the epitome of unconditional love. He has just been amazing through all this, they’ve always been madly in love with each other.”
The family chronicles Carl and Mary Jane’s story on a Facebook page called “Our Journey Through Our Mom’s Dementia.”