Boyd Wylie supported his mother Audrey while she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. She died in March

Boyd Wylie supported his mother Audrey while she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. She died in March

Walk For Memories set for Jan. 25 in Aldergrove

Honourees at this year's walk were both key caregivers for their mothers, suffering from Alzheimer's.

The first quality that stands out about Susan and Boyd Wylie is their sense of humour — their readiness to enjoy life, and to smile.

You can only wonder at how they manage to laugh at all.

Both have lost mothers to the ravages of dementia: Boyd’s mom, Audrey Wylie, to Alzheimer’s, and Susan’s mother, Joyce Richards, to the vascular form of the disease. Both Boyd and Susan were key caregivers as their mothers’ health declined.

On top of this, Boyd discovered he had cancer. He had five tumors, including one on his kidney. He was diagnosed with Lynch syndrome, an inherited condition that raises your chances of various cancers. He has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The now-retired B.C. Tel/Telus employee (36 years of service, the last 11 in Langley) isn’t letting his health impede his quality of life, or his willingness to step forward in support of others. Boyd and Susan, a retired former manager and administrator with government and in the private sector, are honourees of the next Langley-Aldergrove-Abbotsford Walk for Memories, set for Sunday, Jan. 25, at Aldergrove Athletic Park.

Jan. 25 is especially significant for Susan, because it will be the third anniversary of her mother’s death at age 81.

“Her body broke down,” Susan says simply of the tortured months the family endured.

Boyd’s mother was cared for at Langley Gardens up to her death in March 2013 at age 93. Boyd suffered the not-uncommon stings of Alzheimer patients’ offspring, including a great deal of anger aimed directly at him by a woman previously known for her mild, courteous manner.

So together the Wylies turned to the Alzheimer Society of B.C.

“So many people don’t want to ask for help,” says Susan.

They were welcomed into what’s known as an adult kids’ support group — for people with parents suffering from dementia, including those sandwiched between parents and children.

“When loved ones die, people tend to leave these groups,” says Boyd.

However, “a couple of people asked us to stay,” says Susan, so they remained to facilitate support groups.

“We’re there for people to talk to, to support them, and to add humour to their lives.”

As with so many things in life, someone has to have “been there” to experience and understand it. Susan and Boyd try to reassure families they “can get through to the other side,” since they managed to do so.

And today, thanks to ongoing work by the Alzheimer Society of B.C. and through widespread public debate, dementia is no longer stigmatized. Audrey Wylie died without the support of her old friends, who didn’t understand her predicament and never reached out to her or to Boyd.

The Investors Group-sponsored Walks for Memories take place around B.C. each year on the last Sunday of January, which is Alzheimer Awareness Month. Organizers of the Langley-Aldergrove-Abbotsford event describe it as a “community group hug” for dementia sufferers and their caregivers.

Rain or shine (there are some tents and Rotary Field House for shelter), supporters come to the Aldergrove park to draw attention to the need for more research into dementia, for more facilities and support for caregivers, and of course for the money to achieve those aims.

There will be music, food and entertainment, as well as dementia information and resources. The park is wheelchair- and pet-friendly (dogs must be on leashes), and walkers (no set distances) are encouraged to form fundraising teams.

Registration may be done and donations made on the day of the event. The doors to Rotary Field House open at noon, with official event opening at 1 p.m.

Everyone with access to a computer or a smart phone is strongly encouraged to register online, via walkformemories.com, then scroll down to the  “Langley, Aldergrove and Abbotsford” link.

This year, the path around the park’s southwest quadrant will host a walkway of memories: pictures of dementia sufferers and words and poems about them. If you would like someone you know to be remembered in this way, you can submit photos and words in person or by mail to Investors Group’s Langley office (100 — 8837 201 St., V2Y 0C8) or by email to laawfm@gmail.com. Be sure to include the full name of the person(s) being remembered, their years of birth and death, their links to our local community (if relevant), and the names of the people or teams walking in their honour.

People may also obtain information and show their support via the Langley-Aldergrove-Abbotsford WFM Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Investors-Group-Walk-For-Memories-Langley-Aldergrove-Abbotsford/548679908520363.

The Times, as part of Black Press, is a media sponsor of the Walks for Memories.

 

Here are two poems written by Susan Wylie about how Alzheimer’s affected her family.

Eyes

 

Those vacant eyes

that cannot see

is she wondering who

I could be?

Is she trying to remember

my well-worn face

as I do remember

her warm embrace?

I look at her

and she looks at me

she looks away

should I let her be?

I remember the smile

that showed in her eyes

when she looked at me

like I was her prize.

Now those eyes

look tired and used

as they dart around

she looks confused.

It’s time to leave

as she wheels away

sadness descends . . .

we’ve exceeded our stay.

Susan Wylie, 2013

 

The Woman I Don’t Know

 

The woman I don’t know

wears a frown and hangs her head

the woman I don’t know

rarely smiles … is full of dread.

The woman I don’t know

depends on others for her food

the woman I don’t know

can be difficult and rude.

The woman I don’t know

sees me as son or maybe brother

the woman I don’t know

sad to say she is my mother.

 

Susan Wylie, July 2011