Several years ago, Petro Kulynych sensed something was wrong with his wife, Roena. She was having trouble remembering everyday things, like what to pack for a trip, and would become disoriented in new places. After seeing a variety of doctors and specialists he was told there was nothing they could do and that she was suffering from dementia. Soon after the onset of memory loss, it was necessary for him to place Roena in an assisted living facility. Petro visited his wife there on a daily basis, often bringing her breakfast which he made himself. Because so many of his questions went unanswered, he made a decision to do something about it.
Kulynych and his daughters, Janice Story and Brenda Cline, donated $1.2 million to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and pledged an additional $2.5 million to create the Roena B. Kulynych Center for Memory and Cognition Research which is housed in the J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging. "I want her to leave a legacy," Kulynych said, "My job is to give the money to the people who can do the work and let them make the decisions."
The Kulynych Center for Memory and Cognition Research undertakes new and innovative studies of the relationship between memory impairment, dementia and physical disability in the elderly, according to Jeff Williamson, MD, Director of the Center.
The need for this research is evident because one in four Americans over the age of 75 and 40 percent of those over 80 suffer some degree of disability due to dementia. In addition, this number is increasing by 5 – 10 percent with each decade in age.
In honor of his wife, Kulynych is committed to continued research in the area of memory loss and dementia stating, "We have witnessed the steady deterioration of a wife, mother and grandmother due to dementia…My daughters and I want Roena’s life to make a difference. Our hope is that through medical research inroads can be made against the devastating effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease." Dr. Williamson echoes that commitment stating, "The Kulynychs’ gift will enable researchers in the Sticht Center and throughout Wake Forest University to build upon our strong tradition of research on the prevention of disability and loss of independence in older adults."