One year ago this September, Andrea Mailhot’s father was diagnosed with dementia. She knew nothing about the disease. But the Alzheimer Society was there to help. She attended an information session about dementia, which was a godsend for her.
At the session, Andrea heard about the Society’s signature fundraising event, the Walk for Memories. Two weeks later, she had organized a small team of volunteers to participate in the unique indoor walk. That first year would prove to be especially difficult as her new reality became more apparent.
“While it was heartwarming to see so many people supporting their loved ones who have dementia or walking in their memory, it suddenly sank in that my father, my hero, was now one of them,” recalls Andrea.
She remembers how the Society representative she had met at the information session noticed her crying, went over and walked a few laps with her. “She hardly knew me. I couldn’t believe it when she contacted me two weeks later, wanting to know how I was doing,” says Andrea. “That’s how much they care.” Although she only had two weeks to plan that first year, Andrea managed to raise about $400.
One of the most difficult challenges for Andrea is how her father’s personality changes so drastically. She continues to get help from the Society, receiving guidance on how to best care for and interact with him. “I don’t know how they do it,” she says. “Whenever I send an email, I get an answer the same day.”
Andrea has found other novel ways to raise funds. She teamed up with a good friend who raises funds for the Breast Cancer Foundation, and the two share the proceeds of bake sales, bottle drives and garage sales organized throughout the year between the two charities.
Prominent at the Walk this year will be a poster of Andrea’s dad with a touching narrative of what he means to her. “My dad is my hero,” she wrote. “He taught me everything I know. He’s still a proud man, and I don’t want him to lose that part of himself. It’s hard watching him age so quickly, forgetting to eat…. being a prisoner in his own home.”
What is Andrea’s major motivation for participating in the Walk for Memories? “There is no other place where one can go for education about this awful disease, and we know so little about it,” she says. “The kind of support the Society offers is beyond amazing.”
To register for Walk for Memories, go to www.walkformemories.ca
Written by Nicole Chenier-Cullen, Alzheimer Society Volunteer