Walking for a memory

Published 11:59 pm Friday, September 16, 2011

For Ann Marie Hussey the old adage, “Once a man, twice a child” bore truth right before her eyes.

She watched as her dad, Ray Hickman, became a child again.

Hickman developed Alzheimer’s disease when he was 53 years old. Hussey watched as she lost her strong, active and loving father to a disease that no one really understands.

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“Daddy actually became a child again,” Hussey said. “It happened gradually but it reached the point that he didn’t know who we were and didn’t know how to take care of any of his needs. He was like a little boy again. It was such a sad thing to watch and know there was nothing we could do to make him better. All that we could so was love him and try to make him feel safe and secure.”

Ray Hickman died at age 59 but he had been gone for a long time.

“An Alzheimer’s victim is there in body but the person that you have known for all your life is gone,” Hussey said. “It’s devastating.

“After Daddy died, I began to remember those who had reached out to me with a lifeline when I felt like I was drowning. I knew that I wanted to do all that I could to keep others from having to go through what my daddy did and all of our family.”

Hussey said the Alzheimer’s Resource Center in Dothan provided her with information, resource materials, encouragement and moral support.

“I realized how much the Alzheimer’s Resource Center had helped me though Daddy’s illness and I wanted to do something in return,” she said.

In 1995, she organized a team from her church, Oak Grove United Methodist, to walk in the annual Alzheimer’s “Walk to Remember.”

“We’ve had a team from Oak Grove every year since then,” Hussey said. “The purpose of the ‘Walk’ is to raise awareness of the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease and to provide support for education and support services for families, caregivers and victims of Alzheimer’s disease in southeast Alabama and northwest Florida. I know how important this support is to families and the number of those who can benefit from those services is growing.”

There are an estimated 84,000 individuals with Alzheimer’s disease in the State of Alabama and about 10,00 within the service area of the Alzheimer’s Resource Center in Dothan.

The annual Alzheimer’s walk, “A Walk to Remember” is the major fundraising event held by the Alzheimer’s Resource Center in Dothan.

All money raised at the walk will stay local to help Alzheimer families in Southeast Alabama and the panhandle of Florida.

Hussey said that the programs and services now in existence are dependent on funds from the Walk to continue another year.

“We invite everyone who has been affected by this devastating disease to join us for the 2011 ‘Walk to Remember’ on Saturday, Oct. 1 at Westgate Park in Dothan,” Hussey said. “We welcome supporters to join the Oak Grove team or to come and walk in memory or honor of a loved one.”

For more information contact Hussey at 566-1819 or the Alzheimer’s Resource Center at 334-702-2273.

This will be the 19th walk for Alzheimer families in the Wiregrass area. The first walk was held in 1993.