Fundraising helps the organization support people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families and care partners
SIMCOE COUNTY ALZHEIMER SOCIETY
The theme for IG Wealth Management’s 24th Annual Walk for Alzheimer’s is “Walk 10,500 steps for 10,500 people living with dementia in Simcoe County”.
That’s 496 more than last year. It is still one of the most pressing health issues of our time.
John McKenzie was only 49 when his wife, Kathy, noticed him mumbling on the phone. She then started to hear him in everyday conversations, but John didn’t think anything was wrong with him. His slurred speech, combined with confusion, impaired judgment and poor decision-making – he had gotten lost driving home from Toronto one night (a familiar route) and his business was on the verge of bankruptcy – prompted Kathy to see a doctor. Their family doctor in Barrie dismissed her concerns, so Kathy began seeking a second opinion.
After ruling out other possible causes, John was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in 2016, six years after symptoms first appeared. In addition to changes in personality, mood, and social or financial judgment, people with FTD may also have difficulty planning, organizing, staying focused, or completing tasks. This set of mental skills is called executive function and helps us run a household or hold down a job.
John’s frontotemporal dementia was causing him to make poor financial decisions with his business, so Kathy had him retire after the diagnosis. His problem-solving skills were also deteriorating; for example, he no longer knew how to attach a Swiffer head to the mop handle.
“That’s not what I envisioned for our retirement. I thought we were going to travel and have fun,” says Kathy. “It’s hard to even get a real hug (from John), but I understand that’s the FTD doing it.”
“It was a long journey to get help,” says Kathy, who was relieved to finally have a diagnosis that explained John’s unusual symptoms.
The Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County not only focuses on the needs of people with Alzheimer’s disease, but also their families and care partners. Kathy McKenzie is a shining example of a dedicated care partner. She encourages John to pursue his creative outlets like music and guitar and supports him in his social and emotional pursuits, while engaging in his daily care.
Unexpected circumstances like Kathy’s are often overlooked during dementia treatment, yet they require just as much support and compassion.
“Many care partners struggle to do more and/or new things, while crying and still trying to maintain their regular routines as much as possible. In some cases, like Kathy’s, it still means working full time,” says Heidi Haupt, family support coordinator at the Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County.
Cases like this are becoming more common in Simcoe County, with more than 10,500 people with dementia currently residing there.
“Everyone living with dementia in Simcoe County deserves access to support and resources at every stage of their journey, as do their friends, family and care partners, which is the mission of the Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County,” says Debbie Islam, Chief Executive Officer.
The IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s is the Alzheimer Society’s biggest fundraiser of the year, inviting Simcoe County residents to show their support for community members like John and Kathy.
Sign up to walk today on alzheimersimoecounty.ca.
The Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County has served this area since 1985 to ensure people with dementia get the care and services they need to improve their quality of life. The Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County is one of 26 local Alzheimer Societies in Ontario providing support, education, public awareness and social recreation programs for people with dementia, their partners in care, families and the general public. For more information, please visit alzheimersimcoecounty.ca or call 705-722-1066.