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Raising awareness for Alzheimer’s Disease is a personal crusade for two Summerside women

Corrine Arsenault, from left, and Gail DesRoches pick up an elastic band with each full lap made around the Credit Union Place indoor track as part of the Group Walk for Alzheimer’s on Saturday afternoon.
Corrine Arsenault, from left, and Gail DesRoches pick up an elastic band with each full lap made around the Credit Union Place indoor track as part of the Group Walk for Alzheimer’s on Saturday afternoon. - Desiree Anstey

Dementia is a downhill slide as Corrine Arsenault and Gail DesRoches know all too well

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I - There’s a sombre feeling at the Credit Union Place on Sunday afternoon as participants walk to remember and raise awareness of a ticking time bomb on P.E.I.

More than 2,500 Islanders suffer from dementia, of which Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form, and this number is only going to increase with time.

“My dad doesn’t know my name anymore, but most days he recognizes that I’m still his daughter,” shared Gail DesRoches, who was among those participating on the Group Walk for Alzheimer’s that was held both in Summerside and Charlottetown by the Alzheimer Society of P.E.I.

“It’s so hard. I can be really good, but as I watch my dad decline rapidly now I get very emotional. My mom had the start of dementia before she passed (May 30, 2014), and my dad is on his seventh year of having it.”

DesRoches, who works as a caregiver on the dementia wing in Andrews of Summerside, says she has started showing symptoms of the devastating disease that can be passed from parent to child by gene mutations.

“I find that I am starting to forget things more often,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “That’s why making memories and taking lots of pictures with loved ones is so important.”

Staff from Andrews of Summerside raised collectively $10,599.95 for the Alzheimer’s Society of P.E.I., which was presented as an impressive cheque to the Society before the walk kicked off at 1 p.m.

“It’s such an important cause because it’s a detrimental illness. I work at Andrews in Summerside too as a caregiver in our dementia wing, and we see each day the devastation that the disease does to a loved one and it’s the least we can do to support the Alzheimer’s Society,” said Corinne Arsenault.

Arsenault walked in honour of the eight residents in the dementia wing of the retirement home, as well those that have passed from the disease.

“Dementia can hit anybody, no matter what age. Little by little it strips you of everything as your brain dies. You forget family members, where you are located, even how to care for yourself,” she said.

“I have a lot of relatives that have this disease.”

Currently there are no cures or effective treatments to delay or stop dementia, but there is hope.

The annual nation-wide fundraiser aims to support those living with the disease, and their caregivers to raise funds for local programs and services.

“It’s a journey that is very difficult to live for the person suffering, as well as for the families. It’s very close to my heart. You have to be so compassionate because it’s not just the resident you look after, but their families too.

“If you can make a small difference in their lives and help their family members cope a little better then you go home after work and feel good that you made that small difference,” commented Arsenault, who has seen both her parents battle the disease.

She gave some wise words of advice for those that are facing the downhill slide.

“Even though it’s on both sides of your family you can’t wait for it to happen to you. You have to have faith and live each day to the fullest. Put one foot forward and just keep on living to the best that you can.”

For more information about the Alzheimer’s Society of P.E.I. visit, www.alzheimer.ca/en/pei.

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