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Honouree Family For The 2015 Walk For Alzheimer’s Announced

March 26, 2015

By Editor
Well-known teacher and choral director Ken Fleet and his family have been named the Honouree Family for the 2015 Walk For Alzheimer’s. As the largest fundraising event for the Alzheimer Society London and Middlesex, the Walk raises money to support programs and services delivered at no cost to people living with dementia.
 
Christine Dirks, a Walk For Alzheimer’s Committee volunteer profiles the family and the experiences with dementia that Ken, his wife, Janet and adult children, Andrew, Kim and Becky have encountered.
 
There were signs recalls Janet. In 2007 her husband, Ken had difficulty remembering things, following schedules and organizing materials. Later his sense of direction and ability to read maps deteriorated. In 2011 Ken was assessed at Parkwood Hospital and diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s. He was 59.
 
The “acceleration point” came in 2014, says Janet. Ken became disoriented and agitated. He began having paranoid delusions that would last for hours. His safety became an issue.  My children were coming over most days and evenings to help. “It was a very difficult summer. I didn’t know what to do.” Within months the family made the tough decision to move Ken into long-term care. “He is settling into LTC and we as a family are coping but struggling to accept and see the effects of this horrible disease.”
 
Janet and Ken have been married for forty years and have had a happy, busy life full of family, friends and music. “There was always music” says Janet. For 30 years, Ken, an award-winning choral conductor, taught choral and instrumental music at Medway High School and developed one of the largest and most successful choral programs in Ontario. He taught conducting and music education at Western and was a long time conductor of London Pro Musica and co-conductor of the Amabile Boys and Men’s Choirs.
 
Despite the ravages of the disease, Ken continues to participate in choir programs. “It’s remarkable how he lights up; the music seems to take him out of his dementia.” says Janet. “It’s so difficult. He’s so young, 62. We cry all the time. He conducted so many choirs and was known internationally. He was one of the best.”
 
“You’re thankful for the good” says Janet. “He’s not in pain. He still recognizes people.” Janet draws her strength from family, friends, church and remembering the good times. She finds it helps to talk about the journey. She visits Ken every day, is in contact with her children daily and recognizes the importance of taking care of oneself.

Janet and family are grateful to the Alzheimer Society London and Middlesex for the care, guidance and programs the Society offers those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and their loved ones. The Fleets have been involved with the Society for two years. “I wish we’d known all that they offer earlier on in our journey. They will guide and support you through the stages. You don’t have to go through this alone.”