Caregivers for people with dementia area a resilient group of people in the eyes of Janine Willemsen.
Those are the people the 13-year Maple Ridge resident will be thinking about as she runs in this year’s Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon.
Willemsen, a support and education coordinator with the Alzheimer Society of B.C., said it only made sense to her to raise money in support of the organization.
Willemsen, a long distance caregiver to her South African mother-in-law, who has Alzheimer’s, said most of her experiences are with the caregivers.
“They are some of the most innovative, creative, attentive and compassionate people I know,” she added.
“They are resilient, they know how to dig deep and even though they are often in very challenging, exhausting caregiving situations, they still find the strength to reach out to other caregivers to encourage and support them along the journey.”
Some can be caring for an Alzheimer’s patient for up to 18 years.
In Canada, there are more than 419,000 people living with diagnosed dementia, noted Willemsen, and many others who have not yet been diagnosed.
In B.C., there are over 70 000 people living with dementia.
The average number of hours that caregivers – including family and friends – spend per week supporting a person with dementia is about 26 hours.
Willemsen and her running partner, Kimberly Fremmerlid, have been training for the half-marathon for the past three months.
They have been running five times a week, often early in the morning before they go to work. Their training has consisted of speed work at a track, hill work around Maple Ridge, tempo and long runs every weekend.
But this is not the first half-marathon the pair have run for charity.
Last year, they ran in the Run for Water half-marathon in Abbotsford to raise money for clean water and the building of water wells in some of the rural cities in Ethiopia.
Willemsen said her experience with caregivers is that the journey can be a long one. She equates it to running a marathon.
“You will burn yourself out if you think it’s a sprint,” said Willemsen.
“You have to pace yourself, you have to bring on support, you have to get educated, you have to reach out.”
Basically, all the things you learn when you are training for a half or full marathon, added Willemsen.
Willemsen will be running in the Scotiabank Half-Marathon and 5-kilometre run on June 23 at the University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver. Her goal of raising $800 has already been surpassed by $75.
• To donate, visit Willemsen’s donation page.
If you are living with dementia or need information and support, call the First Link Dementia Helpline at 1-800-936-6033. The helpline is available Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For information and support in Punjabi, call 1-833-674-5003 and in Cantonese or Mandarin, call 1-833-674-5007.