Alzheimer’s Walk on Sunday
Sydney family shares its experiences.
When Paul Whelan and his family found out their father had dementia it was a shocking time in their lives.
“It was an emotional time for all of us,” said Whelan. “It was quite a shock. You never really expect it by any means.”
Brian Whelan was diagnosed with dementia four years ago. The family started noticing a change in Whelan after his wife Susan died in 2012.
“For a while you chaulk it up as just being old age, being forgetful and just forgetting things,” said Paul Whelan. “When he was diagnosed it gave the family some light as to what was going on through all the problems he was having, at least there was a medical condition.”
Whelan said his father started forgetting things.
“I first noticed it when he would come to visit, he would go to the wrong house, he would go to my previous address,” said Whelan. “He went through the testing and it showed that he had dementia. I don’t know if he really knew (why) he was getting tested.”
Brian Whelan was well known for his work in the composing room at the Cape Breton Post. He started working for the newspaper in the 1960s, before retiring in 2001.
Whelan is currently a patient at Harbourstone Enhanced Care in Sydney River, where he has lived for the past year. The family was forced to put him in the nursing home after it became difficult to care for him in his own home.
Paul Whelan said it was tough putting his father in the nursing home.
“It’s a shock, it’s a big eye opener when you walk in to the nursing home and see everything that’s going on in there,” he said.
“It’s the perfect place for him, but it still doesn’t make it any easier on the family.”
Although at times it’s tough for the family to start a conversation with Whelan, there is one thing that helps.
“The funny thing is when you bring up the old days of working at the Cape Breton Post, when you bring in some of the names of people that he worked with, it seems he comes out, not by any means back to his old self again, but he brightens right up,” said Paul Whelan.
In Canada, 564,000 people are currently living with dementia. In 15 years, the Alzheimer Society of Canada expects that number to grow to 937,000.
According to the society,
25,000 new cases of dementia are diagnosed each year. They also say 56,000 Canadians with dementia are being cared for in hospitals, even though it’s not an ideal location for this type of care.
The Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia will host its annual Walk
for Alzheimer’s on Sunday in Sydney. The event will begin at Centre 200 with doors opening at 12:30 p.m. and participants leaving for the five-kilometre walk at 2 p.m. Money raised from the event goes to support programs and services designed for Nova Scotians living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and their caregivers.
Whelan encourages residents to attend and support the event.
“Definitely support the cause because it’s an aging population in Cape Breton, it’s good to have the awareness brought to the forefront because of that,” said Whelan. “I think government needs to take notice of our aging population and help out more.”
Other walks are scheduled across the province. For more information on the annual walks visit www.walkforalzheimers.ca.
Brian Whelan is pictured with his granddaughter Hollie during an Easter weekend visit. Whelan was diagnosed with dementia four years ago and is currently a resident at Harbourstone Enhanced Care in Sydney River.