Monday, January 22, 2018

Alzheimer Society of Toronto's #WalkForMemories #ad

Aren't these ladies lovely? This is my maternal grandmother (top right) and her three sisters. (There was another sister, the youngest, but she passed away from influenza as a toddler.) I adore this picture, and I am so happy that someone thought to pose them and take it. And that it has survived and made it into my hands.

The picture makes me a little sad as well. Every one of these beautiful, vibrant, loving, smiling women developed Alzheimer's Disease or another form of dementia in their later years. So did their mother, my great-grandmother. Alzheimer's is a cruel disease, and it can affect different people in different ways. It steals your memories and impairs your ability to think, make decisions, and even to access the right words. It can bring about personality changes and cause the individual to behave in truly uncharacteristic ways, including sometimes violent outbursts. Individuals with Alzheimer's can become withdrawn, apathetic and lose the ability to control their moods and emotions. They may develop odd habits, like repeating the same action over and over again. Eventually, Alzheimer's takes away a person's independence when they can no longer perform the most basic everyday tasks. It steals the whole of your being.

Over time, my grandmother went from being a little forgetful, and no longer caring about her garden and houseplants, through being constantly afraid, to no longer knowing who any of us were. I remember going home to visit, and telling her I was pregnant. She was so happy for me, but only as she would be for any young mother. There was no connection. The next summer, when I brought my son with me, we visited her in the nursing home. It was wonderful to see how happy she was to hold and play with a baby. But he wasn't her baby. She couldn't grasp that this was her great-grandson. She wasn't even truly aware that the man at her bedside was her husband of 60 years. She just knew him as the good man who looked after her. Looking back, my mother says she should have known something was wrong when Nan started neglecting her plants and her housework. That wasn't her. That was the beginning of the disease taking her from us. We lost her a long time before her death in 2006.

I can only image how isolating and terrifying Alzheimer's must be for the person experiencing it. I do know that for those who love them, it is incredibly difficult to watch, and absolutely heart-breaking to be a spectator as your loved one slowly disappears. It is also quite frightening for me to have such a strong family history of the disease. According to the Alzheimer Society, there is a familial form of the disease, passed on through generations, but this only accounts for 7% of all cases. Still, for my mother, myself, my son, I worry. For us and for all the others this disease touches, I keep the Alzheimer Society of Toronto on the list of charities I regularly support. My support helps them to support and educate families living with this disease and to fund research into treatments and maybe even, one day, a cure.

This year, for the first time, I will be participating in the Alzheimer Society of Toronto's Walk for Memories. This is Canada's largest walk for Alzheimer's Disease and dementia, and sees thousands of walkers come out each year to raise vital funds. This year's Toronto walk takes place on Saturday, February 3, from 8:30 am - 12:00 noon. I was initially hesitant, because I am not such a huge fan of winter and cold weather. But, guess what! This one is an indoor walk!

The Walk for Memories is a 2.2km indoor walk that takes place in the underground PATH downtown. It begins and ends at the Sheraton Centre Hotel, so participants will stay warm throughout. The walk will include some great music and entertainment, and an expected 1,500 or more individuals who have been touched by Alzheimer's Disease and other dementias.

It's an early start, so I'll be taking advantage of the chance to stay overnight Friday at the Sheraton. And I won't be alone. Ahead of the walk, the Alzheimer Society of Toronto is hosting a Family Slumber Party Friday night, February 2. Michael will be coming with me, for the slumber party and the walk itself. Friday night will a fun chance to spend some time with other families participating. There'll be a pizza party with games and arts & crafts at 6:00pm, followed by storytime at 7:30pm. We'll want an early night to rest up, I am sure.

I'm looking forward to sharing this event with Michael, and taking the opportunity to talk to him more about this important cause and the importance to giving back where we can. He has participated with me on other fundraising walks in the past, and we always enjoy the time to together, doing something that benefits others.

What are you doing on February 3? Why not join us! You can register yourself, your spouse, your parents, your kids, and maybe start a family tradition of charitable involvement. Registration is free, and there are no fundraising minimums, but of course the more money (and awareness!) we raise, the better.

I'd love to see you at the Walk, but if you aren't able to make it, perhaps you could consider making a donation. You can do this online at my personal sponsorship page. Every dollar helps!!

In the meantime, wish us luck with our fundraising efforts and with the walk itself! As a suburbanite, I have to admit the PATH scares me a little - I get so turned around down there. It will be fun to be there with a group, and a defined path to follow. I'll be getting to know a part of Toronto that is still quite a mystery to me!

Get Social

You can connect with the Alzheimer Society of Toronto on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. For updates on the Walk, follow the hashtag #WalkForMemories.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Alzheimer Society of Toronto. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own or those of my family.

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