For 10 years, the Investors Group Walk for Memories has shared the stories of people who suffer from Alzheimer's in an effort to raise money for the Alzheimer Society of B.C.
But Alzheimer's doesn't just affect one person; it impacts whole families. And there's a husband, wife, son or daughter who steps in to provide 24-7 care and support.
The Walk for Memories that takes place at the Tournament Capital Centre on Sunday, Jan. 27, puts the spotlight on these caregivers.
"We want families to know they don't have to 'walk' the dementia journey alone," said Tara Hildebrand, support and education co-ordinator for the Alzheimer's Society of B.C. "We want caregivers to know where they can turn to for the support they need."
Hildebrand and caregivers Bill Kerr and Geri Webb were at Kamloops Seniors Village Friday afternoon for the official campaign kickoff.
Kerr and Webb shared two similar yet divergent stories of people who willingly sacrifice themselves to care for loved ones.
Webb is the lone support for her husband, Gord, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's four years ago. Kerr spent years commuting to Chilliwack to care for his mother, Dorothy, before he was able to get her into a Kamloops care home.
For both, the disease revealed itself with slips of memory; the kinds of things people pass off as old age. Webb suspected her husband had Alzheimer's long before he was diagnosed, but no one believed her, she said.
"It's not something you expect to have happen," Webb said of the disease. "All of a sudden, you're there."
Gord takes Aricept, a medication that treats Alzheimer's symptoms but doesn't cure it, and is able to stay home. Kerr's mother lived on her own in a mobile home park for years.
Webb needs to reprogram the TV daily because Gord has fiddled with it. Dorothy would phone Kerr saying the dryer is broken but, when he drove to Chilliwack to fix it, the appliance worked.
"She'd forgotten how to use it," said Kerr.
Caring for someone you love who is slowly deteriorating is exhausting and stressful, they said. And the time you take time for yourself is met with inner guilt.
Both turned to a caregiver support group, which has provided them with a shoulder to cry on, a chance to laugh and the ability to realize they aren't alone.
Hildebrand said no one can understand the stress caregivers are under unless they've been in that situation. And it's important for them to know there is someone to help them.
"They need to be recognized for all that they do," she said, hence the theme of this year's walk.
Last year's campaign raised $93,000. Hildebrand said this year's goal is $100,000.
Online registration is now open at alzheimerbc.org. To arrange a pledge form, phone 250-377-8200.
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