Last year’s Investors Group Walk for Memories was a special time for Susan Schmalz and her father, Keith Hannett.
Keith, who had been living with dementia for the past five years, was the official honouree of the event.
Schmalz said the walk was special, and although her father’s condition had been consistently worsening, she was able to dance with him that day.
Later that week he forgot how to walk; two weeks later he forgot how to eat.
“He went downhill really quick,” said Schmalz.
“Day by day he was just losing abilities.”
On March 1, 2012—about one month after last year’s Walk for Memories—Hannett passed away.
Schmalz said it was tough to watch her father slip away so fast, but it may have been a blessing: Life for Hannett was not easy in his last days and caring for him was taking its toll on Schmalz and her family.
Caring for her Hannett throughout the last five years of his life was difficult. Schmalz and her brother had to take time off work to ensure someone was always able to look after their dad.
For two weeks, while Hannett was living at Schmalz’s house, she had to sleep in the same room as him to make sure he didn’t do something dangerous.
“I didn’t know if he was going to go wandering outside or try to brush his teeth with something poisonous.
“The two weeks he was here are exhausting. It was 24 hours; there was no break.”
In the past, Walk for Memories has honoured one person living with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. But this year, the spotlight will focus on the people who look after those suffering from the diseases.
“The caregivers shoulder so much. The person who actually has the dementia doesn’t understand what’s happening…the caregivers are the biggest part.”
This year Schmalz is volunteering on the Walk for Memories committee as the promotions coordinator. She said she feels it is important to continue to help the Alzheimer Society of B.C.
“I still want to talk about it, I want to help other people and I want to keep helping the walk so money and awareness are raised.”
Schmalz said 120 people came out for last year’s walk and $28,000 was raised for the Alzheimer Society of B.C. Organizers are hoping more people will come out this year and a fundraising goal of $35,000 has been set.
Kelowna Walk for Memories takes place at Pinnacle Elite Athlete—inside the Capital News Centre—Jan. 27 from 10 to 11 a.m. Registration is at 8:30 a.m.
For more information or to register, visit walkformemories.com or call 250-826-7822.