News Local

Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County holding walk in Barrie

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County events co-ordinator Josie Figliuzzi prepares a portable Sponsor Wall for the society's annual walk at Sunnidale Park on Sunday. Registration will take place at 11 a.m. followed by the walk at noon.
Mark Wanzel/Barrie Examiner/Postmedia Network

Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County events co-ordinator Josie Figliuzzi prepares a portable Sponsor Wall for the society's annual walk at Sunnidale Park on Sunday. Registration will take place at 11 a.m. followed by the walk at noon. Mark Wanzel/Barrie Examiner/Postmedia Network

Take some steps to remember, for those who can’t.

The Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County is holding its Walk for Alzheimer’s Make Memories Matter event on Sunday at Barrie’s Sunnidale Park.

It’s not just a fundraiser for the county chapter, but also an opportunity to increase awareness about the disease that, as of 2016, affects an estimated 564,000 Canadians who are living with dementia, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

People taking part in the event can show their commitment to helping people who are living with the disease as well as their family members, according to Laura-Lynn Bourassa, manager of education and support programs for the Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County

“But it’s to also to show our solidarity as a community that we’re getting involved,” she said. “We want people with dementia to feel included and supported by the community as a whole.”

Registration for the Walk for Alzheimer’s Make Memories Matter is at 11 a.m., with the walk beginning at noon.

Despite its prevalence, not everyone knows the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia, Bourassa said.

“Dementia is not a specific disease. It is a grouping of symptoms that includes loss of memory and changes in some cognitive skills. Alzheimer’s is a specific disease that produces those symptoms,” she said. “There are also things like vascular dementia, related to blood flow to the brain, that can cause a change to cognitive skills, or Lewy Body dementia, a different disease process that attacks the brain but produces shared symptoms.

“There are differences between all these illnesses. But they have some commonalities as well,” Bourassa added. “Eventually dementia can affect all parts of somebody’s life. They are diseases that are attacking the brain and brain cells are being damaged.”

The more people understand dementia, the more inclusive and understanding they are, she said, adding awareness is a huge part of Sunday’s event.

That includes detection of early-onset Alzheimer’s, which isn’t necessarily restricted to how old someone is.

“The symptoms are the same regardless of age. Short-term memory loss is one symptom, but it’s not the only symptom,” Bourassa said, adding friends and family members should be paying attention.

“Are we seeing a change in how somebody does math or in their personality or behaviour? Do we see a change in their use of language and their words? You might see a change in how somebody orients themselves to date and time," she said.

"Are they taking a longer time to describe things or are they mixing words up?”

Those types of things may also be fleeting, she added.

“You might have an episode like that and then it’s back to normal,” Bourassa said. “The major consideration is that we’re in change. What is different about this person and are changes happening more frequently?

“If you’re recognizing one symptom, keep note of that, but also think about other areas of your life and if you’re noticing changes in other abilities,” she added. “Many people are self-aware that things are happening and seek help. For other people, it might be that somebody brings it to their attention.”

Visit www.alzheimer.ca/simcoecounty to learn more.

imcinroy@postmedia.com