September 24, 2020

BY WHITNEY SOUTH

Even through winter’s chill, forget-me-nots are popping up on lapels across the country this January.

For many Canadians, the tiny blue flower is a symbol of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Representing memory loss, one of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, it serves as a reminder to remember people with the disease and their caregivers.

The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada website states an estimated 500,000 Canadians have Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. With an increased number of cases being diagnosed each year, that number is expected to double by 2038.

Barb Eastman-Lewin, volunteer co-ordinator for the Alzheimer’s Society of Kitchener-Waterloo, said she was inspired to work for the society after losing her father to the disease.

“My family and I had used the organization’s services that help those living with Alzheimer’s,” she said. “I had significant experience in fundraising and organizing special events so when a position came up with the society, I was hooked.”

Knowing first-hand the need for funds to support organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Society, this weekend’s Walk for Memories is just one way people can help, according to Eastman-Lewin.

“This is our largest fundraiser of the year,” she said. “You can register as a team or as an individual and contribute along with 300 other participants.”

The Walk for Memories is the largest fundraising event in Ontario dedicated to increasing awareness and raising funds for research as well as vital programs and services. This year’s goal is to raise $2.5 million.

Though most see Alzheimer’s as a disease that affects only the mind, few realize that it’s actually fatal.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, Alzheimer’s not only robs people of their memory, it destroys brain cells, causing the body to forget how to perform even the simplest tasks in order to survive, such as talk, move or eat.

The society also offers numerous resources and support programs for people with the disease and their families.

Melanie Cameron and her family have participated in the Walk for Memories for the past two years and will be walking this Sunday, Jan. 27, at the Waterloo Rec Complex.

After her grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Cameron said her heart broke each time he would forget her name or even what year it was. When he passed away in December 2010, she felt as though she had lost him twice.

“When I walk, I know that my money that I have raised will go to try to help spare other families this pain in the future,” she said. “I take comfort in knowing that those walking around me have similar stories, and that we are all there for the same purpose.”

Cameron said she thinks it’s important to help raise awareness for Alzheimer’s research because it is a disease that touches the lives of many Canadians.

“If we can research the cause of Alzheimer’s, there may be a way to prevent it,” she said. “Early detection and being proactive could help people keep their memories intact.”

For more information on the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada and to find a Walk for Memories in your area, visit www.walkformemories.ca.