Steve Bennett

Bennett family helping educate about Alzheimer’s

Late former premier is this year's honouree for the annual Walk For Alzheimer's in Kelowna.

The late Bill Bennett, former premier of B.C., will be this year’s honouree at the annual Investor’s Group Walk for Alzheimer’s in the Kelowna.

The walk, the biggest awareness and fundraiser organized by the Alzheimer Society of B.C. each year, is scheduled for May 1.

Bennett, who was from Kelowna and represented this area as an MLA in the B.C Legislature during his years in politics, died in December after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.

His son Steve, speaking at a kick-off event for the upcoming awareness and fundraising walk held on Wednesday, said by supporting the event he felt he and his family were doing what his father would have done—continue to fight to help find a cure for the debilitating form of dementia that robs its victims of their memories.

“We all know how competitive my father was,” said Steve Bennett, who personally donated $5,000 to the Alzheimer Society of B.C. to help fund research that one day could lead to a cure.

He said for his father, the early onset of the disease was slow but sped up quickly once his dad turned 80.

In the last years of Bill Bennett’s life, he had to be transferred to a care home and was at the point where he did not recognize his children or his wife of 60 years.

“He didn’t want to talk about it but as a family, we did,” said Steve Bennett, adding he remains confident one day a cure for Alzheimer’s will be found.

He is encouraging everyone to register and turnout for the walk, noting it is now a national event.

The Kelowna walk will start in Mission Creek Regional Park at 11.a.m on Sunday, May 1.

The confidence in finding a cure expressed by the younger Bennett is a reflection of the research into the Alzheimer’s disease currently ongoing at a number of universities around the world, including right here in Kelowna at UBC Okanagan.

Dr. Ardis Klegeris is leading the team conducting the local research.

Klegeris said while a drug to cure the disease is still likely some time off, other research has found that there are steps that can be taken in mid-life to help fend it off later in life or, at least, slow it down.

Given that Alzheimer’s is considered a “late-life” disease, Klegeris said it has been shown that lifestyle changes such as exercise, maintaining an ideal weight, mental activity, a good and balanced diet and not smoking or drinking heavily in mid-life could delay development of Alzheimer’s later on.

He said world-wide, the biggest risk factor for the disease is actually low education, while in North America it is obesity.

Locally, he said, research is being focusing on the use of an arthritis drug, Auranofin, as a method of slowing the onset of Alzheimer’s.

But he said because the disease cannot be identified for certain until after death, there is a lack of test subjects to try out potential helpful drugs.

He said Alzheimer’s is primarily a human disease, with only a few types of animals getting what could be a related form of it.

But still, he remains confident a cure will be found.

“It’s not a question of if, it’s when,” said Klegeris.

To register for this year’s Walk For Alzheimer’s, go to walkforalzheimer’s.ca.

Walks will also be held across B.C., including in  Penticton, Nelson and Vernon.

 

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