Turning powerlessness into proactivity: Masami takes on the Climb for Alzheimer’s challenge

British Columbia
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Masami and Masako smiling together.

Powerlessness, guilt, frustration – these past few months have heightened the many emotional challenges that long-distance caregivers experience. This sense of powerlessness is something that Masami Yakata has felt acutely while living and working in Langley, B.C., thousands of kilometres away from her birthplace of Kyoto, Japan, where her mother Masako is living with dementia.

“It hasn’t affected my everyday routine, but emotionally I’m feeling helpless,” she explains. “I’ve not been able to visit home to get things organized and help my family since COVID-19.”

Dementia has been present in Masami’s life since childhood, with both of her grandmothers having lived with the disease. She describes witnessing the mental and physical decline of her grandmothers as a very hard experience but something that she understands, unfortunately, many families go through. 

The family gathered for New Year's Day. Clockwise from top left: Masaki’s father Tadashi, her grandmother Kimie, Masako, her brother Masaki and Masami.
The family gathered for New Year's Day. Clockwise from top left: Masaki’s father Tadashi, her grandmother Kimie, Masako, her brother Masaki and Masami.

Drawing from the positives of the experience, she reflects, “I’m very thankful that my parents let me have those moments with my grandmothers and learn how dementia could be a part of our life someday."

This understanding of the disease helped Masami to recognize and accept her mother’s own dementia many years later, although it has not made it any easier. With the pandemic, she is unable to visit her family, which has heightened many of these emotions. “Every time I see my brother posting their struggles from Japan, I feel sick to my stomach not being there physically.”

Feeling frustrated that she was unable to be with her family and provide help in person, Masami was keen to make a difference in some way. The opportunity struck her one day while on Facebook, when a friend who experienced a similar journey with their mother announced they were taking part in the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s fundraising event, the Climb for Alzheimer’s. She seized the opportunity and registered for the event straight away.

This year’s Climb for Alzheimer’s is taking place in a virtual capacity, where participants can take part from anywhere around the province as they set themselves their own hiking challenge. Masami set herself the goal to walk or jog 300 kilometres by September 21 - World Alzheimer’s Day. Since sharing her story on her fundraising page, her friends and family have been overwhelmingly supportive. Masami’s original fundraising goal of $150 was reached in just one week, and after setting herself a new target of $700, she once again achieved that goal too – with a month still to go!

“I’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude,” she says, “This disease has hit close to home for so many of us.”

For thousands of families in British Columbia, dementia is an uphill journey – and no one should have to do it alone. The Alzheimer Society of B.C. is there for people on every step of their dementia journey, and it’s people like Masami who are helping to make that happen.

When asked if she has any words of encouragement to others taking on the Climb challenge this summer, she says, “We are all in this together. We’ve got this!”

Thank you to Masami for her amazing fundraising efforts! You can donate to Masami’s fundraising page or join her in taking part in this year’s Climb for Alzheimer’s by visiting climbforalzheimers.ca. Now until September 21, committed supporters, friends and family across British Columbia are hiking a collective 70,000 kilometres to show that people don’t need to make the dementia journey alone. Who will you climb for? Register and fundraise today.