Alzheimer caregivers feel the love

SYLVIE PAILLARD / Kamloops Daily News
January 27, 2013 01:00 AM

Kamloops Rube Band member Brent Fraser at Sunday's Walk for Memories.

The statistics are staggering. More than 70,000 British Columbians have Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

The degenerative neurological condition strikes without warning and has no cure. But the fight never stops to find a cure and prolong quality of life.

To that end, more than 500 people stepped onto the indoor track at the Tournament Capital Centre on Sunday to take part in the Investors Group Walk for Memories.

Last year the Alzheimer Society of B.C. fundraiser generated $93,500 in Kamloops - more than was raised in Vancouver during the same event, said Tara Hildebrand, the regional co-ordinator for the Alzheimer Society of B.C.

And in celebration of the event's 10th anniversary in Kamloops, local organizers are shooting for $100,000.

But it's also about raising awareness, said Marg Rodgers, the organizing group's chair for the past nine years.

"It's very important that we raise that profile so that those people in our community will come for support and education to (the Alzheimer Society) resource centre," said Rodgers.

A vast proportion of caregivers are husbands, wives and family members struggling to maintain normalcy in the midst of a seemingly insurmountable challenge. And they are often forgotten, said Hildebrand.

That's why organizers chose to honour caregivers for this year's special anniversary.

"When a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer's or a disease related to dementia, the whole focus becomes about that person and the caregiver gets forgotten about. They forget about themselves," said Hildebrand.

"We wanted the focus to be on them and the journey they are also taking. They're struggling with their own emotions and dealing with their own grief yet trying to maintain some normalcy in their life as it changes."

People from all over the region travelled to Kamloops to participate in the event. Bill Urquhart, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2010, walked alongside his caregiver wife Darlene.

They brought with them more than $3,000 thanks to the generosity of their friends, acquaintances, neighbours and even strangers in Chase.

"Chase is a very giving community," said Darlene. "Sometimes you didn't even need to ask. They just gave. Isn't that wonderful?"

Gwen McMaster and her husband Dick McMaster celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in October. Dick was also the Walk for Memories honoree in 2011.

Gwen said it meant a lot to take part in the celebration while surrounded by several members of her family all sporting shirts that read "McMaster Family."

"It's time consuming, very time consuming," said Doug McMaster of his mother's caregiver role. "She has to be very patient."

Dick said having Gwen by his side makes all the difference.

"She's always there. It's joint work," he said, admitting with a chuckle that she sometimes takes the lion's share of the workload.

Gwen said her support group, which connects once a month through the Alzheimer Society of B.C., is a crucial part of her life.

"The caregiver group is a very, very good group," she said. "I couldn't do this without it. They give you all the information you need, what you need to do, you hear about other people and how they're handling things."

The family raised $5,000 this year with $4,000 of that coming from co-workers of Gwen and Dick's son, Darcy McMaster.

He works in the oil and gas sector in Africa and in 2011, when his father was the event honoree, raised $28,000.

Darcy said no matter where you go or who you talk to, people all over the world are touched by the disease and they want to help.

"All you have to do is ask."

The Alzheimer Society of B.C. hopes families and caregivers ask for help. Confidential support, information and education are available through resource centres across the province. People can start by calling 1-800-634-3399.

© Copyright 2015 Kamloops Daily News

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