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Hussey walks to remember her father

The Alzheimer’s Resource Center will host the 18th annual Alzheimer’s walk, A Walk to Remember, on Saturday, Oct. 9, at Westgate Park in Dothan.

Ann Marie Hussey of Troy has on her walking shoes.

Hussey’s dad, Ray Hickman, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1992. She watched him go from an energetic, fun-loving dad to a person that was only a shell of the man she knew and loved.

“It’s hard when a person’s body goes but it’s just as hard when someone you love disappears,” Hussey said. “That’s why I’m so dedicated to raising money for the Alzheimer’s Resource Center in Dothan. I want to do all that I can so that ways can be found to prevent and treat this terrible disease and to help those who are going through it and their families. The families suffer as much as the patient, maybe more.”

Hussey said her dad’s Alzheimer’s began so gradually that the family didn’t really notice.

“Daddy had started withdrawing,” Hussey said. “When we would go over, he would go to bed. We didn’t think too much about it. But some of those who played golf with him noticed that he couldn’t keep up with his golf balls. From there, it got worse.”

Hussey said Alzheimer’s is a family disease and she had to learn how to cope with the disease because the patient reacts to the moods of others.

“They pick up on your mood,” she said. “If you are anxious and agitated, they are too.

“I had to learn a different kind of patience. I had to learn to be calm and answer my dad’s questions even if he repeated them a dozen times. I learned that hallucinations are often a part of the disease and that you have to learn to accept them as real in order to make the patient feel safe.”

When her dad would fall in her arms and cry, Hussey said that she would cry with him.

“For a time, Daddy didn’t know who I was,” she said. “That was the hardest thing. I started calling him Ray because he would respond better to that.”

One day, Hussey called her dad by his name and he reacted differently.

“He said, ‘Ann Marie, I am your daddy. You treat me with respect,’ Right then, I had my daddy back. It was only for a short time, but I had him back. I am so thankful for that little time back with him.”

Ray Hickman was diagnosed with cancer in April 1995 and died in February 1996.

“It was hard when we found out that Daddy had Alzheimer’s and so hard seeing the man that we loved just fade away from us,” Hussey said. “But we loved him through it all and we were able to help him because of the caring, the support and the knowledge that we received from the Alzheimer’s Resource Center.

“Every year, I walk in memory of my dad and I will as long as I can. I encourage anyone who has a loved one with this disease to join us for the 2010 A Walk to Remember. The Alzheimer’s Resource Center is a place where you can go to get the information, the support and encouragement you and your loved one need to make it through.”

Anyone who would like to join Hussey’s team may do so by calling her at 566-1819.

Registration for A Walk to Remember will begin at 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 9 with opening ceremonies at 8:30 a.m. The one-mile walk will begin at 8:45 a.m.

For more information or for educational and support services, call 1-888-702-8689.