Living with Alzheimer's disease

News Jan 07, 2015 by Mike Peeling Brant News

Gerald McCulloch has Alzheimer's disease, but can he beat just about anyone at a game of euchre.

It's a skill his wife Marilyn finds encouraging, while his opponents find it frustrating.

"I beat them and they get pissed off," Gerald says with an infectious, hearty laugh at their Paris home.

Marilyn says the people he plays wonder at how he can be so good at a game when his memory often fails him.

While Gerald still excels at euchre, Marilyn said he can't learn new games. So to keep him busy and his mind active, they play euchre with at the Paris Seniors Club twice a week.

An active member of the community, Marilyn was enlisted to start a new "Walk for Memories" in Paris four years ago. The Alzheimer Society of Brant event is hosted in Brantford as well, on Sunday, Feb. 1 at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre, while the Brant County edition follows a week later on Feb. 8 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Paris District High School.

The event was held at Syl Apps Community Centre for the first three years, but a scheduling conflict led the organizing committee to move it to the high school.

Last year the Brant County walk raised more than $20,000, just a few thousand shy of the Brantford walk, which has been running for more than 20 years.

"I find people in the county are very generous," Marilyn said. "We look after our own in this community. Plus I think it's because of the fine people who work on the event."

The money raised by the Walk for Memories allows the Alzheimer Society of Brant to educate the public, and provide services and programs such as a caregivers support group, which Marilyn attends regularly.

Marilyn is working again with Ron Gibb, Sharon Young, Arlene Jeffrey, Diane Lawn and Chris Ford.

"I help out where I can," Gerald said. "But one day I might be good, the next day not. I find it helps if I get plenty of sleep."

The 75-year-old retiree was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease 10 years ago, but Marilyn had suspicions there were signs of the condition three years earlier. She knew something was truly wrong when Gerald couldn't remember a key piece of financial information.

"Gerald always had a mind like a steel trap when it came to money," she said.

They had lent one of their sons some money and one day he dropped by to pay back half of it.

After he left, Marilyn said Gerald asked her 'Why did he give us this money?'

Gerald told her he would never have lent any of their five children money.

"I said 'That's it. We're going to see a doctor,'" Marilyn recalled.

She said it's better to seek a professional opinion if you suspect a loved one has a mental illness such as dementia.

"If you think something is up, go see a doctor and get tests," Marilyn said. "The earlier they get on medication, the better for everyone. You can't keep ignoring the problem. Too many people think of mental illness as taboo. There's nothing wrong with admitting it, but there's still a stigma."

Yet Marilyn said getting examined for memory loss could also mean a diagnosis of thyroid problems, high blood pressure or diabetes, not just dementia.

Marilyn recently participated in a roundtable discussion hosted by Nickel Belt MP Claude Gravelle, who has tabled a private member's bill proposing a national strategy for dealing with dementia in Canada. Gravelle, whose mother had Alzheimer's, was shocked to learn Canada doesn't have a strategy for the epidemic of dementia sweeping the world as baby boomers approach the most at-risk age group. It's the only G9 country without one.

The number of Canadians with dementia is estimated to double to 1.4 million by 2031 and the cost of caring for them could multiply by 10 by 2040.

Marilyn said they will be asking walk participants in the Brant County walk to sign a petition supporting Gravelle's bill.

Gerald has rediscovered his old hobby of stamp collecting to help his memory. He gave it up years ago, but now with neighbours who also collect, has been trying to fill in the gaps of his collection. Friends bring him stamps as well, most recently from Ireland.

Gerald enjoys going for walks, but the weather has curtailed that activity. He misses walking their miniature poodle Ebony, who passed away in March.

And it's quite possible that he could get disoriented or confused while out, which is why he wears a "Safely Home" Medic Alert bracelet, the product of a partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

"I can feel lost, but not be lost," Gerald said.

Marilyn said she has heard of people with dementia standing at their own front door, but not remembering where they live.

Another problem for Gerald is short-term memory loss. When out for dinner, reading the menu is a challenge. Marilyn will suggest something for Gerald to order because he often can't remember what he just read. The same thing applies to reading the newspaper or watching TV.

"I have read the paper three or four times and said, 'I never heard that before. That's interesting,'" Gerald said.

The McCullochs' shared sense of humour has been a great coping mechanism over the last 10 years.

"If you don't laugh, you'd go crazy," Marilyn said. "You have to make the best of every day and be grateful for the time you have together, because things can change so quickly."

The Alzheimer Society of Canada kicked off January, Alzheimer Awareness Month, with its campaign "The 72%," which emphasizes the fact that 72% of Canadians with Alzheimer's disease are women. Women live longer and age is the biggest risk factor for the disease.

Women account for 70 per cent of family caregivers, which takes a great toll, especially on women raising families and holding down jobs.

The Alzheimer Society of Canada hopes women and their families will learn more about the warning signs of Alzheimer's disease at www.alzheimer.ca/the72percent.

To volunteer for the Brant County Alzheimer Walk for Memories on Sunday, Feb. 8 at PDHS from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., call Marilyn at 519-442-5227 or Sharon at 519-442-2358.

To sign up for the walk in Brantford or Paris, call 519-759-7692 or visit www.walkformemories.ca.

Living with Alzheimer's disease

Walk for Memories set for February in Brantford, Paris

News Jan 07, 2015 by Mike Peeling Brant News

Gerald McCulloch has Alzheimer's disease, but can he beat just about anyone at a game of euchre.

It's a skill his wife Marilyn finds encouraging, while his opponents find it frustrating.

"I beat them and they get pissed off," Gerald says with an infectious, hearty laugh at their Paris home.

Marilyn says the people he plays wonder at how he can be so good at a game when his memory often fails him.

While Gerald still excels at euchre, Marilyn said he can't learn new games. So to keep him busy and his mind active, they play euchre with at the Paris Seniors Club twice a week.

An active member of the community, Marilyn was enlisted to start a new "Walk for Memories" in Paris four years ago. The Alzheimer Society of Brant event is hosted in Brantford as well, on Sunday, Feb. 1 at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre, while the Brant County edition follows a week later on Feb. 8 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Paris District High School.

The event was held at Syl Apps Community Centre for the first three years, but a scheduling conflict led the organizing committee to move it to the high school.

Last year the Brant County walk raised more than $20,000, just a few thousand shy of the Brantford walk, which has been running for more than 20 years.

"I find people in the county are very generous," Marilyn said. "We look after our own in this community. Plus I think it's because of the fine people who work on the event."

The money raised by the Walk for Memories allows the Alzheimer Society of Brant to educate the public, and provide services and programs such as a caregivers support group, which Marilyn attends regularly.

Marilyn is working again with Ron Gibb, Sharon Young, Arlene Jeffrey, Diane Lawn and Chris Ford.

"I help out where I can," Gerald said. "But one day I might be good, the next day not. I find it helps if I get plenty of sleep."

The 75-year-old retiree was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease 10 years ago, but Marilyn had suspicions there were signs of the condition three years earlier. She knew something was truly wrong when Gerald couldn't remember a key piece of financial information.

"Gerald always had a mind like a steel trap when it came to money," she said.

They had lent one of their sons some money and one day he dropped by to pay back half of it.

After he left, Marilyn said Gerald asked her 'Why did he give us this money?'

Gerald told her he would never have lent any of their five children money.

"I said 'That's it. We're going to see a doctor,'" Marilyn recalled.

She said it's better to seek a professional opinion if you suspect a loved one has a mental illness such as dementia.

"If you think something is up, go see a doctor and get tests," Marilyn said. "The earlier they get on medication, the better for everyone. You can't keep ignoring the problem. Too many people think of mental illness as taboo. There's nothing wrong with admitting it, but there's still a stigma."

Yet Marilyn said getting examined for memory loss could also mean a diagnosis of thyroid problems, high blood pressure or diabetes, not just dementia.

Marilyn recently participated in a roundtable discussion hosted by Nickel Belt MP Claude Gravelle, who has tabled a private member's bill proposing a national strategy for dealing with dementia in Canada. Gravelle, whose mother had Alzheimer's, was shocked to learn Canada doesn't have a strategy for the epidemic of dementia sweeping the world as baby boomers approach the most at-risk age group. It's the only G9 country without one.

The number of Canadians with dementia is estimated to double to 1.4 million by 2031 and the cost of caring for them could multiply by 10 by 2040.

Marilyn said they will be asking walk participants in the Brant County walk to sign a petition supporting Gravelle's bill.

Gerald has rediscovered his old hobby of stamp collecting to help his memory. He gave it up years ago, but now with neighbours who also collect, has been trying to fill in the gaps of his collection. Friends bring him stamps as well, most recently from Ireland.

Gerald enjoys going for walks, but the weather has curtailed that activity. He misses walking their miniature poodle Ebony, who passed away in March.

And it's quite possible that he could get disoriented or confused while out, which is why he wears a "Safely Home" Medic Alert bracelet, the product of a partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

"I can feel lost, but not be lost," Gerald said.

Marilyn said she has heard of people with dementia standing at their own front door, but not remembering where they live.

Another problem for Gerald is short-term memory loss. When out for dinner, reading the menu is a challenge. Marilyn will suggest something for Gerald to order because he often can't remember what he just read. The same thing applies to reading the newspaper or watching TV.

"I have read the paper three or four times and said, 'I never heard that before. That's interesting,'" Gerald said.

The McCullochs' shared sense of humour has been a great coping mechanism over the last 10 years.

"If you don't laugh, you'd go crazy," Marilyn said. "You have to make the best of every day and be grateful for the time you have together, because things can change so quickly."

The Alzheimer Society of Canada kicked off January, Alzheimer Awareness Month, with its campaign "The 72%," which emphasizes the fact that 72% of Canadians with Alzheimer's disease are women. Women live longer and age is the biggest risk factor for the disease.

Women account for 70 per cent of family caregivers, which takes a great toll, especially on women raising families and holding down jobs.

The Alzheimer Society of Canada hopes women and their families will learn more about the warning signs of Alzheimer's disease at www.alzheimer.ca/the72percent.

To volunteer for the Brant County Alzheimer Walk for Memories on Sunday, Feb. 8 at PDHS from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., call Marilyn at 519-442-5227 or Sharon at 519-442-2358.

To sign up for the walk in Brantford or Paris, call 519-759-7692 or visit www.walkformemories.ca.

Living with Alzheimer's disease

Walk for Memories set for February in Brantford, Paris

News Jan 07, 2015 by Mike Peeling Brant News

Gerald McCulloch has Alzheimer's disease, but can he beat just about anyone at a game of euchre.

It's a skill his wife Marilyn finds encouraging, while his opponents find it frustrating.

"I beat them and they get pissed off," Gerald says with an infectious, hearty laugh at their Paris home.

Marilyn says the people he plays wonder at how he can be so good at a game when his memory often fails him.

While Gerald still excels at euchre, Marilyn said he can't learn new games. So to keep him busy and his mind active, they play euchre with at the Paris Seniors Club twice a week.

An active member of the community, Marilyn was enlisted to start a new "Walk for Memories" in Paris four years ago. The Alzheimer Society of Brant event is hosted in Brantford as well, on Sunday, Feb. 1 at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre, while the Brant County edition follows a week later on Feb. 8 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Paris District High School.

The event was held at Syl Apps Community Centre for the first three years, but a scheduling conflict led the organizing committee to move it to the high school.

Last year the Brant County walk raised more than $20,000, just a few thousand shy of the Brantford walk, which has been running for more than 20 years.

"I find people in the county are very generous," Marilyn said. "We look after our own in this community. Plus I think it's because of the fine people who work on the event."

The money raised by the Walk for Memories allows the Alzheimer Society of Brant to educate the public, and provide services and programs such as a caregivers support group, which Marilyn attends regularly.

Marilyn is working again with Ron Gibb, Sharon Young, Arlene Jeffrey, Diane Lawn and Chris Ford.

"I help out where I can," Gerald said. "But one day I might be good, the next day not. I find it helps if I get plenty of sleep."

The 75-year-old retiree was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease 10 years ago, but Marilyn had suspicions there were signs of the condition three years earlier. She knew something was truly wrong when Gerald couldn't remember a key piece of financial information.

"Gerald always had a mind like a steel trap when it came to money," she said.

They had lent one of their sons some money and one day he dropped by to pay back half of it.

After he left, Marilyn said Gerald asked her 'Why did he give us this money?'

Gerald told her he would never have lent any of their five children money.

"I said 'That's it. We're going to see a doctor,'" Marilyn recalled.

She said it's better to seek a professional opinion if you suspect a loved one has a mental illness such as dementia.

"If you think something is up, go see a doctor and get tests," Marilyn said. "The earlier they get on medication, the better for everyone. You can't keep ignoring the problem. Too many people think of mental illness as taboo. There's nothing wrong with admitting it, but there's still a stigma."

Yet Marilyn said getting examined for memory loss could also mean a diagnosis of thyroid problems, high blood pressure or diabetes, not just dementia.

Marilyn recently participated in a roundtable discussion hosted by Nickel Belt MP Claude Gravelle, who has tabled a private member's bill proposing a national strategy for dealing with dementia in Canada. Gravelle, whose mother had Alzheimer's, was shocked to learn Canada doesn't have a strategy for the epidemic of dementia sweeping the world as baby boomers approach the most at-risk age group. It's the only G9 country without one.

The number of Canadians with dementia is estimated to double to 1.4 million by 2031 and the cost of caring for them could multiply by 10 by 2040.

Marilyn said they will be asking walk participants in the Brant County walk to sign a petition supporting Gravelle's bill.

Gerald has rediscovered his old hobby of stamp collecting to help his memory. He gave it up years ago, but now with neighbours who also collect, has been trying to fill in the gaps of his collection. Friends bring him stamps as well, most recently from Ireland.

Gerald enjoys going for walks, but the weather has curtailed that activity. He misses walking their miniature poodle Ebony, who passed away in March.

And it's quite possible that he could get disoriented or confused while out, which is why he wears a "Safely Home" Medic Alert bracelet, the product of a partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

"I can feel lost, but not be lost," Gerald said.

Marilyn said she has heard of people with dementia standing at their own front door, but not remembering where they live.

Another problem for Gerald is short-term memory loss. When out for dinner, reading the menu is a challenge. Marilyn will suggest something for Gerald to order because he often can't remember what he just read. The same thing applies to reading the newspaper or watching TV.

"I have read the paper three or four times and said, 'I never heard that before. That's interesting,'" Gerald said.

The McCullochs' shared sense of humour has been a great coping mechanism over the last 10 years.

"If you don't laugh, you'd go crazy," Marilyn said. "You have to make the best of every day and be grateful for the time you have together, because things can change so quickly."

The Alzheimer Society of Canada kicked off January, Alzheimer Awareness Month, with its campaign "The 72%," which emphasizes the fact that 72% of Canadians with Alzheimer's disease are women. Women live longer and age is the biggest risk factor for the disease.

Women account for 70 per cent of family caregivers, which takes a great toll, especially on women raising families and holding down jobs.

The Alzheimer Society of Canada hopes women and their families will learn more about the warning signs of Alzheimer's disease at www.alzheimer.ca/the72percent.

To volunteer for the Brant County Alzheimer Walk for Memories on Sunday, Feb. 8 at PDHS from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., call Marilyn at 519-442-5227 or Sharon at 519-442-2358.

To sign up for the walk in Brantford or Paris, call 519-759-7692 or visit www.walkformemories.ca.