WAPPINGERS FALLS – Kelly Pellerin of Wappingers Falls is a first-time team captain for the Dutchess/Ulster Walk to End Alzheimer’s that will be held on the Walkway on Oct. 14.
She and her mother, Diane O’Campo of Cold Spring, are walking in memory of her grandmother, Elizabeth Challis, who recently passed away from Alzheimer’s disease.
“I’m very sad, but her quality of life was awful,” Pellerin said of her grandmother.
When the symptoms began showing up six or seven years ago, the family initially thought she was suffering from depression.
“She was very paranoid; she wouldn’t leave the home. She would lock herself in a room. My grandfather didn’t understand it,” Pellerin recalled.
“We started to put the pieces together, because she refused to go to the doctor herself,” she said, but by the time they realized what it was, the disease had progressed far enough that it was too late for the medications that can mitigate symptoms to be effective. In time, her grandmother began manifesting even more disturbing behaviors.
“She became so nasty and was hitting people,” Pellerin said.
As the situation became more difficult, some family members stopped visiting, leaving the caregiving to Pellerin’s mother. Pellerin and her mother eventually had her grandmother moved from Long Island to care facilities that were closer in the Hudson Valley.
Pellerin said she wishes they had known more about the Alzheimer’s Association sooner.
“I wish we had known about the Alzheimer’s Association’s programs and services. … It was there — we just had our hands full, and we didn’t realize the tools that were available.
“My education from the Alzheimer’s Association came toward the very end of it when there was no turning back. I hadn’t really looked into the organization, and I wish I had. We didn’t know about an ombudsman until she was in Hospice. We didn’t know about the 800 line. She sat in front of a TV all day. Mental stimulation goes quite quickly with her condition. It got to the point where she was on a soft food diet because nobody could coerce her into putting her dentures on. Had the right person been there who was educated on the disease, it could have made a difference,” she said.
Pellerin said that even if people can’t afford to donate, they can still make a big difference by showing up for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
“Even if you can’t make a donation, just being there speaks volumes louder than words. The more the merrier, the more that we can educate people. Just get in your car and meet us there on Oct. 14,” Pellerin said.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the nation’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research programs. Last year the Hudson Valley Chapter’s five walks raised more than $1 million.
The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s research, care and support. Call the 24-hour helpline at 800.272.3900 or visit alz.org/hudsonvalley to learn more.
If you go
What: Dutchess/Ulster Walk to End Alzheimer’s
When: Saturday, Oct. 14. Registration starts at 9 a.m., opening ceremony at 10 a.m. followed by walk.
Where: Starts on the Highland side of the Walkway Over the Hudson.
Contact: Walk Manager Venesa Marcellin with questions at email@example.com or 845-394-4952.
Web: Register or donate at WalkwayWalk.org