Support System

BUFFALO – Back in 2009, out of the blue, George Kessler suddenly could not recall the time or date. But it wasn’t until he passed out while driving several years later that his cognitive health was assessed, and he failed, indicating George had a form of dementia.

His wife, Nancy, witnessed her husband of 34 years change from a sharp-as-a-tack and happy man into a humorless person who went through periods of paranoia. George was fortunate, though, in that medication provided some help, and they were better able to cope once he and Nancy contacted the Alzheimer’s Association Western New York Chapter.

“Education is essential,” said Nancy. “We have a great support system at the chapter and they have some wonderful resources to help us.”

The chapter offers support groups for caregivers, social programs for those with the disease and educational seminars, among other things.

“We learned ‘the whys’ behind his changes in behavior and how to respond and adapt,” said Nancy.

As a former salesman, George also appreciates the rapport he shares with others in the social programs.

“Everything I do, like volunteering for different things, helps me, because I connect with people,” he said.

The Kesslers plan to take part in the chapter’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Sept. 20 in Delaware Park behind the Buffalo Zoo.

“The key to dealing with dementia is awareness and bringing people together … and that’s what the walk does,” said Nancy.

The walk is also the chapter’s main source of funding so it can continue to raise awareness, provide resources for all those impacted and fund vital research. The chapter provides those services across eight counties, where it’s estimated some 55,000 people are living with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia.

Walks are also planned in Chautauqua and Orleans counties on Sept. 6; Genesee and Niagara counties on Sept. 27; and in Wyoming County on October 4. More information is available online at or by calling 1-800-272-3900.

The local walk, set for Saturday, Sept. 6, at Chautauqua Institution, begins with registration at 9 a.m. The opening ceremony starts at 10, and the walk gets underway at 10:10.

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s in WNY is made possible through the support of Tim Hortons, West Herr Toyota, Elderwood and Media One Group.