Orleans County's Walk to End Alzheimer's slated for Sept. 9
MEDINA — The annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Orleans County is slated for Sept. 9, beginning in State Street Park.
The walk is being held earlier this year because the weather is often lousy in October, said Carolyn Wagner, a member of the planning committee.
Registration begins at 10 a.m., with refreshments and other activities. The opening ceremony at 11 a.m will be followed by the start of the walk at 11:15.
Wagner and Mary Lou Tuohey are among volunteers on the committee who have personal reasons to be involved in fundraising to combat Alzheimer’s. They have both had family members die from the disease.
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Tuohey has been very vocal about her experiences with her parents, Don and Jane Bradley, both of whom suffered from the disease. She has posted their story on the internet for anyone to read.
Don Bradley was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 52. He was forced to retired from his job at Harrison’s and close a repair shop he ran. As the disease progressed, his family took his keys away because he couldn’t remember how to drive.
Mary Lou said she would bring her dad to her house and give him a basket of socks to fold. Then she would bring him another, which he knew was the same basket she had unfolded and gave back to him. One day he got so angry he punched her in the stomach. One week later, she gave birth to a son, Casey.
When Don’s family feared he would harm his wife, they moved him to a nursing home. He died at age 65.
Jane Bradley was a stay-at-home mom and devoted wife of 42 years. At age 75, she started forgetting things, like people’s names, taking her medication or turning off the stove. One day she went driving and got lost. She had no idea how she got back home. That’s when her family took away her car keys and told her the car was broke. Jane became angry and mean toward her children and threw things at them. Eventually the family moved her to assisted living, which she hated. As her condition worsened, she too was put in a nursing home, where she became aggressive toward the nurses and her family. They brought her a doll named Andrew, which Jane loved and cuddled. She sang “gibberish” to him, until she finally closed her eyes and went to be with Don.
Mary Lou’s daughter Nicole remembers her grandma and grandpa, and watching them fade from life. That is why she sells elephant links for $1 at her mom’s store, Case-Nic Cookies, and donates all the money to the Alzheimer’s Association for research.
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Wagner’s connection to the disease began with her father-in-law. He had been on a steady decline for several years, but no one knew what was wrong. Then it became obvious.
“People with Alzheimer’s become ‘Sundowners,’ In the late afternoon they become very agitated,” Wagner said. “Eventually he didn’t know his own son. I stayed nights with him so he didn’t turn on the stove or do something harmful.”
Wagner said being a caregiver was a 24/7 duty and she was constantly exhausted and on edge. Eventually her father-in-law was admitted to the North Wing at Medina Memorial Hospital, where the staff were wonderful to him.
“We didn’t want to put him in a nursing home, but it wasn’t safe for him or my mother-in-law for him to be at home,” she said.
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Wagner and Tuohey are sharing their stories to get the word to people that help is available from the Alzheimer’s Association.
“They offer so much,” Wagner said. “We didn’t realize any of that.”
The local committee works with Lynn Westcott, director of development at the Western New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association in Amherst.
“She works with the committees in each county,” Wagner said. “They offer a lot of help. Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease and we want to do what we can to raise awareness. Statistics show that the number of people who will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is staggering. Most people think it is an old person’s disease, but it’s not. People in their 40s are being diagnosed. Their body is still strong, but their mind is gone. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, educated or not, Black or White. It’s a tough disease for anyone involved.”
The local planning committee starts meeting in the spring at Case-Nic Cookies. They welcome invitations to go out and speak to groups, such as Lions and Rotary clubs.
Committee members, in addition to Tuohey and Wagner, are Cathy Hooker, Amanda Pollard, Michelle Lewis, Pam Canham, Jennifer Nowicki, Beth Schmidt and Mollie Radzinski.
To register for the walk or make a donation, go to: https://tinyurl.com/sm76wfm6.
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