Seven years ago, Gerald McCulloch started mixing things up.
“Something wasn’t quite right,” said his wife, Marilyn. “He got money mixed up, which was highly unusual for him. He always knew how much was in the bank, how much was in his wallet and I said, ‘you know what? We’re going to the doctor.’”
After several tests to rule out diabetes, high blood pressure and a thyroid problem, Gerald was diagnosed with
Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive, degenerative condition that destroys brain cells.
“My mother had it and I remembered what happened with her and as soon as I saw the same things happening with me I did something about it because if you don’t do anything it just gets worse and worse,” Gerald said.
With the help of medication and keeping his brain active through his stamp collection, Gerald has been able to lead a normal life.
“The fact that a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s does not mean that their life is over,” Marilyn said. “It means that adjustments have to be made, but they are in many cases still productive.”
To help raise awareness of dementia and to mark January as Alzheimer Awareness Month, the Alzheimer Society of Brant is hosting the Walk for Memories in Brantford at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre on Jan. 20 from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. and in the County of Brant at Syl Apps Community Centre on Jan. 27 from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m.
The Brantford walk includes singing, a DJ and Zumba classes, as well as healthy living vendors. In the county, Brantford performer Joan Minnery will entertain the crowd.
The goal is to raise $50,000 from both walks, with funds going to the local Alzheimer Society, which provides programs and services free to those who have been diagnosed, their families and their caregivers.
About 2,100 people use the Alzheimer Society of Brant’s services. For every one person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, at least 10 others – including family, friends, colleagues and neighbours – are also affected, according to Angee Turnbull, community engagement officer for the Alzheimer Society of Brant.
“We are here to help you and your family,” Turnbull said.
For Gerald and Marilyn, who organizes the Brant walk, the Alzheimer Society has been a godsend.
“You can laugh with them, you can cry with them,” Marilyn said. “The Alzheimer Society has been very helpful. They have all kinds of information and have been so supportive.”
Register for the Brantford or Brant Walk for Memories at www.walkformemories.ca. Call 519-759-7692, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.alzbrant.ca for more information.