Speak­ing Out to Help Raise Aware­ness

Tillsonburg News - - WHAT’S HAPPENING - By: Lind­say Pur­chase

It started with mood swings. Joe Hut­ter didn’t no­tice them much, but his wife, Sylvia, did. Their chil­dren started to no­tice, too.

They later learned this was a sign of early on­set de­men­tia.

While this was shock­ing news to re­ceive, Joe and Sylvia have taken it in stride.

The hus­band-and-wife pair are out­spo­ken ad­vo­cates for the Alzheimer So­ci­ety and speak freely about Joe’s ill­ness. It makes them an ex­cel­lent fit for their new roles as the first-ever spokes­peo­ple for the Walk for Alzheimer’s.

Joe and Sylvia have been tak­ing part in the Walk since the ‘90s, when Sylvia’s dad was di­ag­nosed with Alzheimer’s. They’re part of a large group that col­lects about $2500 each year. They feel good know­ing that the money all goes to­ward help­ing fam­i­lies in Ox­ford County.

“We’re hop­ing we can raise more,” Sylvia says. “The ser­vices here will ben­e­fit Joe and my­self.”

Joe and Sylvia have been at­tend­ing Alzheimer So­ci­ety sup­port groups since Joe’s di­ag­no­sis three years ago. Their ini­tial ap­pre­hen­sions about reach­ing out quickly dis­si­pated after they met with Fam­ily Sup­port Work­ers at the Alzheimer So­ci­ety.

“After we got there, they made you feel so com­fort­able. There’s just a way about them that makes you feel strong,” Sylvia says.

The Fam­ily Sup­port Work­ers have been there ev­ery step of the way, an­swer­ing ques­tions and mak­ing them feel wel­comed at the Alzheimer So­ci­ety of­fice.

At­tend­ing the sup­port groups helped Joe and Sylvia be open about the di­ag­no­sis with their fam­ily and friends. Lis­ten­ing to oth­ers share their ex­pe­ri­ences with de­men­tia, Joe could see that what he was go­ing through could hap­pen to any­one.

“It was nice to meet dif­fer­ent peo­ple that have the same prob­lem,” he says. It helped Joe de­velop the con­fi­dence to share his di­ag­no­sis with his friends at church, which was a big step for him. Now, he says he’s not scared to tell any­one.

The Alzheimer So­ci­ety’s sup­port groups for clients and care­givers have also helped Joe and Sylvia learn bet­ter strate­gies for liv­ing with the dis­ease. For in­stance, Sylvia has learned to be more pa­tient when Joe has mood swings and to be less par­tic­u­lar about how things are done at home.

Cru­cially, they’ve also re­al­ized that they can go on liv­ing nor­mal lives. Sylvia helped care for her fa­ther and her un­cle when they had Alzheimer’s and knows how hard it can be in the later stages. But there’s no rea­son why they can’t live an ac­tive life right now.

“When your spouse is di­ag­nosed with de­men­tia, it’s a shock. But then you get over it, you get help, you let other peo­ple know and then you get lots of sup­port,” Sylvia says.

Help­ing peo­ple un­der­stand that life goes on after a di­ag­no­sis is a mes­sage they want to share as Walk for Alzheimer’s spokes­peo­ple, a role they say they’re “hon­oured” to take on.

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