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"It's a terrible, terrible disease"

Paulette McNally is pictured with her mom Doreen Ward in 2010. Doreen, who suffered from dementia, passed away in 2015.
Paulette McNally is pictured with her mom Doreen Ward in 2010. Doreen, who suffered from dementia, passed away in 2015. - Contributed

Volunteer finds comfort in keeping her mom's legacy alive through Sackville Walk for Alzheimer's

SACKVILLE, N.B. —

She lost her mom to dementia four years ago but she finds a bit of solace knowing that she is continuing to keep her legacy alive through her part in the Sackville Walk for Alzheimer’s.

Paulette McNally has been involved in the local walk since its inception five years ago, first as a participant and fundraiser and now as one of the members of the organizing committee.

McNally says she was touched to be asked by Dr. Harold Popma to serve on the committee this year because this is a cause that is “near and dear to her heart.”

Participants make their way around the Sackville Waterfowl Park during a previous Walk for Alzheimer's.
Participants make their way around the Sackville Waterfowl Park during a previous Walk for Alzheimer's.

“I’m hoping I can make a meaningful difference, to be able to maybe help out another family or person that’s going through it,” she says.

McNally says it was her mother who taught her the value of paying it forward and that’s why she dedicates herself to various volunteerism duties in the community. She is a big believer in the mantra: “Your smallest acts of kindness mean more than your greatest intentions,” and says being able to contribute in this small way is a comfort to her.

“It’s still very tough,” so this is her way of channeling her grief and helping her deal with her loss.

McNally, who walked with her mom in the first annual Walk for Alzheimer’s before her death the following year, has been one of the event’s top fundraisers over the years. Although she acknowledges a lot of work goes into raising money and now being a part of the organization of the walk, she says it’s important to her to be involved in the cause.

“When you’re able to get a smile from one of the participants, or you know that you’ve helped someone who’s struggling, it’s all worthwhile,” she says.

McNally says watching as your loved one, day by day, become a shadow of who they once were is one of the hardest things people can go through.

“It’s a terrible, terrible disease . . . having to watch a person change and their memory fade away from them. And there’s nothing you can do. It’s so hard.”

Alzheimer Disease is a progressive, degenerative disease that affects each area of the brain, resulting in the loss of certain functions or abilities. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.

McNally’s mother had dementia for nearly 20 years and although the family tried to keep her at home as long as possible with the help of caretakers, they eventually had to place her in the local nursing home.

Paulette McNally, right, heads out into the Waterfowl Park during last year's event.
Paulette McNally, right, heads out into the Waterfowl Park during last year's event.

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can turn lives upside down – the disease takes its toll on both patients and their caregivers as each stage ravages the body and the mind.

McNally says it’s important for caregivers to have a lot of patience and understanding with their loved ones but acknowledges that’s not always an easy task. She always tried to be strong and upbeat during her visits with her mom, but she recalls the walks home after would be spent crying.

She says it’s imperative for the family and the caregivers to try and look past their own feelings of helplessness and focus on the fact your loved one is still with you, even if it may not seem like it most days. Because just being there for them can provide them comfort.

“They’re still who they are on the outside, just their inside’s changed.”

And sometimes it’s those fleeting moments of recognizance or of connection that will make you realize why you’re there.

“Sure, you’re going to have a lot of bad days, but sometimes you’ll have a good day,” says McNally. “And that’s what you have to focus on, those moments that spark a smile.”

McNally encourages residents to join in and support the cause as well and come on out to the Walk for Alzheimer’s on May 26. The annual event raises funds and awareness for local programs, such as the monthly Memory Cafes and the caregiver support group, among others.

This is Sackville’s fifth year hosting a Walk for Alzheimer’s and more than $73,000 has been raised over that time thanks to generous community sponsors and individuals.

Speaking during last year’s event, Mayor John Higham stated: “Many people are dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia and you often feel alone when you’re doing that. This is an event which shows that the community here is with you.”

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • WHAT: Sackville Walk For Alzheimer’s
  • WHEN: Sunday, May 26, registration begins at noon.
  • WHERE: Registration and other activities take place at the Sackville Visitor Information Centre. Walk will take place throughout the Waterfowl Park.
  • WHO: Guest speaker will be Patricia Harrington, executive director at Westford Nursing Home.
  • WHY: To help raise funds and awareness for local Alzheimer programs

For more information or to register online early for the event, visit walkforalzheimers.ca.

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