Those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease have seen a change in treatment, support, and awareness over the last 20 years and sisters Diane and Gwen Ganske know all too well what that entails.
Diane and Gwen have watched four members of their family suffer through Alzheimer’s and said it is remarkable how much has changed in just two decades.
“With grandpa it was just brushed under the rug as normal aging. He’d get people mixed up and forget what he was doing or where he was,” said Gwen.
She said her grandfather’s treatment was very limited and that on days when she saw him if he didn’t recognize her she was not allowed to take him for a walk or visit with him.
“Now we know, 20 years later, that physical activity and keeping fit helps the patient instead of making it worse.”
Gwen and Diane’s dad now suffers from the disease and Gwen said her parents really had to fight to find the right doctor that would send their dad for testing.
Their dad started the process at an age of only 58.
“Mom kept saying that the doctors just weren’t taking him seriously,” said Diane.
Today there are drugs and additional research and education and support to help those who have Alzheimer’s. There are support groups even here in Red Deer that run on a monthly basis where family members can attend to learn how to cope with the disease.
“The experience was different with all of our family. Grandpa just kind of digressed and went backwards in time,” said Gwen.
The members of their family that have lived with Alzheimer’s are all on the paternal side and Gwen and Diane said it is a concern of theirs that they may be subject to the disease.
Donna Durand, manager of client services and programs with the Red Deer Alzheimer Society, said there are many warning signs for the disease.
“Changes in personality can be indicative of the disease as well as changes in mood and behaviour.”
Diane said that their dad went through treatment for depression before finding the correct diagnosis. Once he found out the correct diagnosis he was relieved because he and his family knew how to deal with it.
“Dad accepts it and said to find another 61-year-old that doesn’t have something wrong with them isn’t abnormal,” said Diane.
Durand said only 5–7% of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s also have family members who suffer from the disease. The other remaining cases of Alzheimer’s are based on risk factors in a person’s life.
“For these two sisters they have to be very careful about their own health and reducing their own risk factors,” said Durand.
The Ganske sisters said it is important to be involved with the Alzheimer Society because everybody knows somebody or has been affected in some way by the disease.
“It can strike anybody. You don’t have to have it in your family to get it,” said Durand.
To support awareness and the continuing research on the disease, the sister’s are part of the committee for the upcoming gala for the Alzheimer Society.
The Making Sweet Memories Gala is coming up on Feb. 2 at 6 p.m. and is a fun-filled night with celebrity waiters and ‘funny money’. The event will be held at the Black Knight Inn.
“Our MC is Kevin Watson from KG Country and the funny money is great. You donate for fake money and then use that to pay your waiter to do things like playing pranks on other tables,” said Gwen.
There will be live entertainment and a silent auction and a meal. There are 120 tickets available at $75 each and only about half are remaining at this time.
“It’s really just a great night out to laugh and have fun,” said Diane.
For tickets or information call 403-346-4636.