More than 8,500 local residents are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease or some form of dementia and Denyse Newton, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Society of Durham Region, says this number could possibly be higher.
The organization hosted its annual Walk for Memories at the Durham College Oshawa campus at the end of last month to raise funds and support for the disease. More than 150 people showed up and the walk raised more than $40,000 – an $8,000 increase from last year.
“All the money raised today will remain in Durham Region,” says special events and communications coordinator, Jessica Scheffee. “It will go towards our programs and services, whether it’s one on one support, group support and we also offer public education so it will contribute to all those things.”
January was Alzheimer’s Awareness month and Scheffee says it’s important to note that Alzheimer’s is not just a disease that affects the person living with it.
“It really does impact the care network. Whether it’s the person working with them, family members or friends,” she says.
Jeff Spence, 52, from Oshawa, knows this impact all too well.
Spence’s father, Cecil, passed away from Alzheimer’s last May and his mother, Leola, is currently living with the disease. Spence says the hardest part about taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s is watching the slow progression of someone getting worse from a disease, which has no cure.
When Spence’s father was first diagnosed in 2003 Spence became his primary caregiver. In 2011, Spence’s father became too ill and went into a retirement home in Whitby, The Village of Taunton Mills. That same year, Spence’s mother Leola was diagnosed with the disease as well.
Not long after her diagnosis, Spence’s mother was registered into a nursing home in Oshawa, Hillsdale Terrace. Spence tried to get his father in the same nursing home with his mother in Oshawa, but when he was finally able to, Spence’s father passed away.
He says watching his father live with Alzheimer’s is one of the hardest things he has ever been through.
“It’s something that you don’t get better from,” says Spence. “That’s the thing with this disease, you seem to lose them in stages, his good days were gradually becoming worse.”
Spence continues to visit his mother at Hillsdale as much as he can.
“Sometimes she knows who you are and sometimes she doesn’t but I got over that a long time ago,” he says.