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'Dementia doesn't discriminate': Event supports those living with Alzheimer's

Sunday’s walk was about coming together to help individuals living with Alzheimer's disease, says local volunteer

The Simcoe County Museum was bustling with activity Sunday as people hit the trails for the IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s.

The annual walk raises much-needed funds that allow the Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County to offer programs and services to meet the needs of people living with dementia and their caregivers across Simcoe County. 

Nancy Portlock, donning a cardboard cape adorned with photos of various members of her family, said she was there to walk in memory of her dad, aunts and uncles, and brother and sister who have passed away — as well as her brother, who is currently living with Alzheimer's.

“I see the work that has happened with my brothers and sisters and the help they got … and I hope that I don’t have to get that help,” she said. 

Eighty-three-year-old Brian Barrett, joined by his family, was "wheelchairing" for his wife and sister-in-law, both of whom are living with Alzehimer's.

“My wife was diagnosed with dementia just over a year ago and now she’s in a home, same with my sister-in-law. Let’s hope the money helps,” he said, when asked why this type of fundraising event is so important. 

The number of people in Canada living with dementia is rising rapidly, according to the The Alzheimer Society of Canada, which notes more than 1.7 million people will be living with dementia in Canada by 2050. 

As the number of people affected by dementia increases, so does the need for services. 

“We know dementia doesn’t discriminate,” said Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County chief executive officer Ann-Marie Kungl during the opening ceremony.

Sunday’s walk is about coming together in support of individuals living with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias and their care partners across Simcoe County, said volunteer Deb McGrath, who shared during the opening ceremony that her husband of 30 years was recently diagnosed with early dementia. 

This was the first time Midland resident Suzanne Abray has joined in the event, noting her mother has been ill with Alzheimer’s for more than 10 years. 

“She’s been diagnosed for about six ... And it’s a brutal, cruel disease. Anything we can do to make their lives and the lives of their caregivers better, I am all in,” she said.

Seeing the crowd gathered Sunday morning, she said, was heartwarming.

“I guess they’re preaching to the choir here … but it’s a nice cohesive thing here for people who are involved with people who have it to do together to feel like a solid community. It gets really lonely sometimes being a caregiver,” she said, adding a diagnosis of dementia impacts both the individual and their families. 

“It was huge for her, because she couldn’t live on her own anymore and she’s a very independent person and it affected me greatly because I am the only caregiver in her life. Before she got into assisted care, it was a nightmare.”

As the need continues to grow for access to services, the importance of every donation is recognized in how it helps the organization reach further across the county, stated a press release, which noted the walk is not only a key fundraising event, it is a day to recognize, celebrate and thank supporters. 

This year’s goal is to raise $100,000 to support the 11,500 people living with dementia in Simcoe County.

“At IG Wealth Management — Ontario North Central, we wholeheartedly support the Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County because we believe in standing together to make a difference in the fight against Alzheimer's disease and dementia,” Ontario North Central regional vice-president Michael Richardson said.

“This cause is deeply significant to us because we recognize the profound impact Alzheimer's has on individuals, families, and communities worldwide. By participating in this walk, we contribute to raising awareness, funding research, and providing support for those affected by Alzheimer's.

“Every step we take is a step towards a brighter future, where we can find better treatments, enhance care, and ultimately strive for a world without Alzheimer's. Together, we can make a difference and bring hope to those facing this challenging disease."