By Lori Blair
The Alzheimer Society of Guelph-Wellington is celebrating its 25th year of service this year. The community they serve celebrated them on Sunday, Jan. 27 by turning out in support of the society’s biggest fundraising event, the annual Walk for Memories. Two walks were held one in Guelph and one at Mount Forest Sports Complex. The walkers in Mount Forest praised the society for the work it does and services offered while raising raised an enormous sum of money. In Mount Forest there were six teams made up of about 60 participants. Alzheimer Society of Guelph-Wellington President Jim Tye welcomed and personally thanked each group for its support. Total funds raised in both Guelph and Mount Forest were $49,735, with $16,941 raised in Mount Forest alone. Art’s Girls was the top team raising $4,900. The top single fundraiser for both Guelph and Mount Forest walks was Mount Forest walker Don Yake. Peggy Morrison was the top earner for Mount Forest.
The money raised in Mount Forest and Guelph goes to support the programs and keep them free.
“Because the Alzheimer Society is not for profit, we are not fully funded by the government so we need fundraising to keep running,” Mr. Tye said. “Every year he (Mr. Tye) humbly raises money and no one gets to hear of it,” said Cathy Cook, Alzheimer Society Board Member said. “This year he raised $6,200.”
According to the Alzheimer Society’s literature, “Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain which causes thinking and memory to become seriously impaired.” As the disease progresses it will affect every aspect of life and person including mental and physical abilities, emotions, mood and behaviour.
At the beginning of the event, Diane Turk and Sheryl Elliston led warm-up exercises. The duo guided participants through neck rolls, shoulder rolls and a couple of arm and leg lifts.
Ms. Turk has worked at both Birmingham Retirement Community and Saugeen Valley Nursing Center and has seen the progression of the disease first hand.
“There is a desperate need to find a cure,” she said.
Ms. Elliston has been involved in the walk for many years and remembers when the walk was held outdoors. She began the walk as a way to support her father Claire Martin.
“It (the progress of dementia) is a very hard thing to watch,” she said. “They’re gone before they’re gone.”
Ms. Elliston mentioned the Alzheimer Society support group, which meets at Saugeen Valley Nursing Center once a month. When she felt most vulnerable and in need of bolstering she received help.
“They got me through,” she said.
In the Plume Room the society had set up educational displays and a games and activities area. Family Support Coordinator Kayla Belanger was on hand to explain the games and outline services the society provides. Family Support offers one-on-one counselling and a support group in Mount Forest, as well as work with VON to facilitate companion visits. Volunteers spend time with a person with Alzheimer’s who is living at home, giving the caregiver respite. Family Support also offers home visits with caregivers. During a visit they may lend an ear, answer questions and/or provide coping strategies for making day-to-day life manageable. A general strategy would be to slow down.
“Recognize it can take a person with dementia longer to process, give them time,” Ms. Belanger said.
She added that it is important to continue to live life and enjoy routines and activities.
In addition to family services the Alzheimer Society provides free public education and awareness, in the form of speakers, pamphlets, resource centre and website. The society is active in advocacy and the promotion of research. One of the games was played with cards.
“The purpose of the game was to show how many steps there are in what seems like a simple activity,” Ms. Belanger said.
Folks flipped cards over, one at a time, in order to uncover each step needed to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But they might turn over cards that would halt and distract from progress. A simple sandwich could take 10 or more steps to make. Another challenge was to read a paragraph with the print upside down.
At the end of the event there were several prize draws. A basket was awarded to Best Dressed Team, Barb’s Babes.