Fighting for a cause is something Morgan Bilger knows all about.
The Tillsonburg resident has been the top individual fundraiser for the Walk For Memories, with the Alzheimer Society Oxford for the last six consecutive years.
“It makes me feel good,” said Bilger. “It’s not an easy job – I keep saying I want someone to help me or take my place as a volunteer because I’ve had too many birthdays,” he said with a chuckle.
Bilger became involved with the local chapter of the Alzheimer Society in Oxford County ten years ago, after his wife Marie was diagnosed with the disease. Having been personally affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia has motivated Bilger to support the Alzheimer Society Oxford.
“They’ve helped me, so I’ve tried to help them,” he added.
During the past decade, Bilger has given much of his time and has worked hard to fundraise for the organization. In the past six years alone he has raised approximately $18,000, earning him the much deserved title of top individual fundraiser.
Morgan Bilger and his wife Marie, have been married for 65 years, and although she went to live at Maple Manor in Tillsonburg almost eight years ago, Morgan remains a loving and devoted husband, visiting his wife at least once, and often twice a day at Maple Manor long-term care home.
He said he couldn’t have done it without the care and assistance from the Alzheimer Society Oxford.
“It’s been excellent – they’ve been really, really supportive,” said Bilger. “There are other people that I know too that have the same problems I have and they’ve been very good with them as well.
“I’m sure there are a lot of people that really aren’t aware of the problems with Alzheimer disease or what you go through or what the caregiver goes through,” explained Bilger.
January is Alzheimer awareness month and during the 2013 campaign, there are several key points that the Alzheimer Society Oxford want people to know about the disease and dementia.
“We want to dispel some of the stereotypes about Alzheimer’s or some of the mis-information out there,” said Judi Restemeyer, Family Support Worker with the Alzheimer Society of Oxford. “We’re more than our diagnosis and we want people to see that. One of the other key messages is that we want people to encourage their friends and their family despite a diagnosis, to still include them in as many things, to encourage them to be as involved and have the best quality of life despite the diagnosis,” she added. “They’re still capable in many ways and quality of life is important.”
When a family member or friend is diagnosed with Alzheimer disease or dementia, there are several important areas to focus on.
“We encourage people to do three things – accept the diagnosis when it comes, take the time to learn about it and tap into community support services,” said Restemeyer. “They are keys to coping.”
Living with Alzheimer’s or dementia may not always be evident said Restemeyer and noted how important it is for family members and friends to be aware and understanding of those either living with the disease or those who are caregivers.
“Symptoms are so subtle in the beginning, but with today’s ability to diagnose (Alzheimer’s) earlier and earlier, people may not be aware of all of the challenges that that person may be having, even though we can diagnose it earlier,” she said. “Just because somebody has Alzheimer’s doesn’t mean that they can’t be doing really well in many other things and other areas.
“What the care provider sees and copes with is not necessarily what friends and the public see.”
Each year, throughout the month of January, events are held to raise money for the Alzheimer Society Oxford, including three Walk For Memories events in Tillsonburg, Ingersoll and Woodstock, as well as several coffee break fundraising events put on by local individuals, businesses or organizations.
“We’re certainly seeing a huge increase in support requests,” said Restemeyer. “In the first quarter of this fiscal year (April 1- March 31), we had 94 new referrals in a three month period, so we’re looking at a 250 percent increase over one year. We are looking at an expected rise of 27 percent in the numbers of people diagnosed over the next 15 years, so the numbers are skyrocketing,” said Restemeyer.
“We’re seeing a huge percentage of our client base coming from the Tillsonburg area because of the percentage of seniors here.”
Dementia Facts and Statistics:
Today, 181,000 people in Ontario are living with dementia. This number is expected to increase to 255,000 by 2020.
New cases of dementia in Ontario are on the rise. The total number of annual new cases will triple to 98,620 over the next 30 years.
Currently, Ontario’s total economic burden of dementia is over $5 billion. This is expected to increase by more than $770 million per year through 2020.
Over 1850 residents of Oxford County are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. By 2028, this number is expected to rise to 2561 – a 27.4 percent increase.
Between April 2011 and March 2012, 509 individuals were provided support by Family Support Workers and an additional 105 clients were offered early stage programming through the Journeying Together Program with Alzheimer Society Oxford. A total of 3,678 visits were made by Family Support Workers.
In the first quarter of 2012/13, there were 94 new referrals to the Alzheimer Society of Oxford - an increase of almost 250 percent over last year’s first quarter.