Helene Parker

Helene Parker

Smithers Walk for Memories a matter of family

The second annual Walk for Memories, for Shauna Peterson and Bill Parker, is a time to honour Helene Parker, 83, grandmother and mother.

The Alzheimer Society of British Columbia is holding their annual Walk for Memories and for Shauna Peterson and Bill Parker it’s a time to honour Helene Parker, 83, grandmother and mother.

“She’s a firecracker,” Peterson said of Helene, her grandmother, a resident  at the Bulkley Lodge who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

Although the diagnosis was a difficult one, it wasn’t unexpected.

“You kind of know it’s coming because you see signs of it,” Parker said.

“But it’s hard to see your parents in a home and they don’t know what’s going on, especially when they don’t know you anymore.

In British Columbia, more than 70,000 people have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

Both Peterson and Parker admit there isn’t much you can do, but both said humour is an important part of how they cope.

“You definitely have to have a sense of humour about it,” Peterson said.

In addition to a sense of humour, Parker said a key piece of advice led to an adjustment in how he interacts with his mother.

“You have to be able to live in their world,” he said.

“Because they can’t live in your world.”

In other words, wherever the patient takes the conversation, whether it is based in reality or not, go with the flow.

In Parker’s case, Helene often asks him if he’s seen her parents.  Each time, Parker answers in the affirmative and tells his mom her parents will be in to visit the following day.

“It makes her happy, she won’t remember it in a minute, but it’s better than her being sad for a minute.”

Last year, about 120 people took part in the walk and raised $7,500.

The money raised is used for support and education, improving care for dementia patients, research and advocacy among others.

Parker described the turnout as amazing and a testament to the fact that many are touched by Alzheimer’s disease in one way or another.

“I think it’s great that these walks happen and it makes people more aware,” Parker said.

“The more people know about something, the less they fear it.”

In Smithers, the Walk for Memories takes place Jan. 27 at 2 p.m.

In-person registration begins at 1 p.m. at the Investors Group office, 3860 Alfred Ave.

Participants can also register online at www.walkformemories.com.

For more detailed information visit www.walkformemories.com.