ALZHEIMER SOCIETY OF SIMCOE COUNTY
The theme for the 24th annual IG Wealth Management 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. This is still one of the most pressing health-care issues of our time.
John McKenzie was just 49 years old when his wife, Kathy, noticed he was slurring his words on the telephone. She then started hearing it in everyday conversations, but John didn’t think anything was wrong with him. His garbled speech, combined with confusion, impaired judgment and poor decision making — he had gotten lost driving home from Toronto one night (a familiar commute), and his business was close to bankruptcy — prompted Kathy to seek out medical intervention. Their family doctor in Barrie brushed off her concerns, so Kathy began looking for a second opinion.
After ruling out other possible causes, John received a diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in 2016, six years after the onset of symptoms. In addition to changes in personality, mood, and social or financial judgment, people with FTD might also struggle with 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 made him retire after the diagnosis. His problem-solving skills were also deteriorating; for example, he could no longer figure out how to attach a Swiffer head to the mop handle.
“This is not what I envisioned for our retirement. I thought we would be travelling and having fun,” says Kathy. “It’s hard to even get a real hug (from John) anymore, but I understand it’s the FTD that’s 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 focuses not only on the needs of individuals living with Alzheimer’s, but also their families and care partners. Kathy McKenzie is a glowing example of a dedicated care partner. She encourages John to pursue his creative outlets like music and guitar and supports him in social and emotional pursuits, all while committing to his day-to-day care.
Unexpected circumstances like Kathy’s are often overlooked during dementia treatment, and yet they require just as much support and compassion.
“Many care partners are struggling to do more and/or new things, all the while grieving and still trying to maintain their regular routines as much as possible. In some cases, like Kathy’s, that still includes working full time,” says Heidi Haupt, a family support co-ordinator for the Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County.
Cases such as this are becoming increasingly common in Simcoe County, with over 10,500 individuals living with dementia currently residing here.
“Every person living with dementia in Simcoe County deserves access to support and resources on every step of their journey, as do their friends, families, and care partners, which is the mission of 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, which calls for Simcoe County residents to show their support for community members like John and Kathy.
Register to walk today at alzheimersimoecounty.ca.
The Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County has been serving this region since 1985 to ensure people living 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 services, education, public awareness, and social recreational programs to persons living with dementia, their care partners, families, and the public at large. For more information, please visit alzheimersimcoecounty.ca or call 705-722-1066.