Growing up, we only had one car for the family. So, when Dad left for work, Mom walked everywhere. She pulled us in a wagon when we were little and walked beside us as we got older. She walked to get groceries. She walked us to and from school and swimming lessons. She walked rain or shine…although certainly the sunny days were more enjoyable!
As I grew older, Mom and I walked just for the fun of it. We’d spend one night every week walking wherever the wind took us. It was in those moments spent together, that I shared with her all about my life, my hopes and my dreams.
In time, I moved out of our family home, got married, and started a family of my own. After the birth of my first son, I was excited to have more time to walk with Mom. I had so many questions for her now that I was a mother. I wondered, “How were we as children? How did she cope with sleepless nights?”
But I noticed that she didn’t really answer my questions. She responded with, “It was a long time ago.” I felt disappointed, but initially brushed it off. As the year went on, more and more changes began to appear, until I took her to the doctor with me. Mom was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, at the age of 57.
At first, we navigated the diagnosis and what it meant together as a family. In hindsight, I wish that we had connected with the Alzheimer Society right away. This would have meant that Mom could have attended some of the amazing programs earlier, and I could have gotten support sooner. Connecting with an Alzheimer Society counsellor was such a wonderful help to us on this journey. Families dealing with dementia run in to so many challenges that others often can’t relate to, but after I connected with the Alzheimer Society, I never felt like I was alone.
My Mom has been my inspiration for so many aspects of my life. She helped me learn how to be a mother and how to be an advocate. I knew that I had to honour her by getting involved with the Alzheimer Society in any way that I could. I started walking in the IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s in Mom’s honour a few years ago. Later, I started working at the Alzheimer Society so I could help families like mine.
Mom walked me through my entire life. Now, she lives in long-term care and uses a wheelchair, so I walk for her. I know that by walking, I’m making a difference for people living with dementia and their families, so no one has to walk this journey alone.