Alzheimer’s disease ‘a karmic injustice’
Kevin Parton was too young to understand what was happening when his grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
He recognized she was confused. She was sick. But he didn’t know the extent of her illness. The only indication Parton had was from his father’s reaction.
“The last time I remember seeing her, she didn’t remember who we were. I remember my dad was really upset because she couldn’t remember him,” Parton explained. “Eventually, she passed away.”
Years later, the South Surrey resident’s life was once again touched by someone suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Parton’s then-girlfriend had lost one grandmother to the disease and her maternal grandmother was diagnosed shortly after the two began dating.
It was then, at the age of 19, Parton saw firsthand the deterioration of health caused by the disease and understood the strain placed on family members.
“I had seen her from her early stages to the later stages. I saw the progression of her deteriorating over three years, with her memory going away. She went through the phase of understanding what was happening, to the phase of fear and paranoia of not knowing what was happening to becoming disillusioned and not knowing what was going on anymore around her,” Parton said. “During a Christmas dinner, she asked her daughter, ‘where are my mom and dad?’ For her, it was like she was 16 years old again and she wanted to know where her parents were.”
Parton – now 24 – also saw the strain placed on the family as they navigated through the illness.
Despite their resolve to band together to help, it was an emotionally taxing ordeal, Parton recalled.
After being a witness to the devastation caused by Alzheimer’s, Parton was determined to get involved to help battle the disease.
He began slowly, by running for fundraising events hosted by the Alzheimer’s Society of B.C.
But it wasn’t until he took on his job in 2010 as a consultant for Investors Group that he found the perfect way to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s research and support.
“Two weeks after I started, I got an email from an advisor who was on the committee for the Walk for Memories for our office and was looking for someone to take over. I read it and thought this was a position that would fit. I put it on and it was exactly what I wanted to do,” Parton said.
Two years in the position and Parton is now the co-chair of the committee for the 2013 Walk of Memories, which will be taking place Jan. 27 at Eaglequest Golf Course at Coyote Creek. As well, he is a member of the organizing committee for the Scotiabank Half Marathon, which raised $35,000 last year.
Through Parton’s volunteering, he has continued to meet individuals in the community who are affected by Alzheimer’s, including the honouree from last year’s walk, and fellow Surrey resident, Jim Mann who documented his struggles with the disease through social media last year.
“You get to hear their stories, see what’s going on and they have so much to share. That for me is the worst part of it. There is so much knowledge that can be shared, but with Alzheimer’s you get that taken away.
“You build your whole life to the point where you can relax and actually enjoy yourself, and to get to that point and have that stolen from you seems like karmic injustice,” Parton said.
“But it’s a great experience to work with these people. The world becomes a much bigger place. As soon as you understand the world is much bigger than you are, it becomes a much more enjoyable life.
“The more you give back, the more you sort of take from it.”
One of Parton’s goals focuses on having more youth involved in the society and with the Walk for Memories. From experience, Parton has encountered a lot of ignorance surrounding the disease.
“I’ve had people come up to me and ask about the ‘old-timers disease’ because that’s actually what they think the name is. Those are the times you just say, ‘OK, let’s go sit down and talk,” Parton laughed.
“But many people, unless they have experienced it in their family, don’t know very much about Alzheimer’s.”
In order to encourage education, Parton has turned to social media, including a Facebook page, to share information.
“It’s important for me to do this because I don’t have a ton of money to donate, but I do have time. That’s what I can give right now with the eventual goal of being able to help out philanthropically.”
For those interested in volunteering in the walk, visit www.alzheimerbc.org/Get-Involved/Walk-for-Memories.aspxw