The ABC's of Alzheimer's, A tribute to Millie
Updated: Nov 10, 2020
About Alzheimer’s Disease
65 seconds. The time it takes the average adult to take 20 breaths and the time in which someone receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that destroys a person’s memory and thinking skills as well as their ability to participate in activities of daily living. Changes in personality also commonly occur in the disease process. There are over a 100 types of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.
November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and a particularly important time to discuss the statistics. Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause in the top 10 that has no prevention, cure or definitive way to slow it down. In 2020, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the nation $305 billion dollars. By 2050, these costs could rise to over 1 trillion according the Alzheimer’s Association Facts & Figures.
I have devoted my career to the field of healthcare with a specialization in geriatrics. I was in my second year of undergraduate studies for occupational therapy when my family was personally impacted by this devastating disease. My
Millie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1993 and fought for 14 years until succumbing to this incurable illness.
It was at this time that my family and I vowed to learn all that we could and made a commitment to do more to support the cause. We immersed ourselves into education and fundraising. This passion is what led me to an interest in pageantry, in particular the International Pageant System where platform is of the utmost importance. As an athlete growing up that only knew how to walk in sneakers; I never thought pageantry was in my future. However, it was a clear way for me to use the title as a megaphone to promote my mission even further. I made the decision to compete for the title of Mrs. New Jersey International for which I was crowned in 2011. My platform was and still is, “The ABC’s of Alzheimer’s Disease” which is to increase “A”wareness of the disease, “B”etter services for individuals and caregivers through education and to “C”ontine funding for additional research. As Mrs. New Jersey International I was able to raise tens of thousands of dollars for the cause and traveled across the state making hundreds of appearances to educate others about this illness and related dementias. I was also awarded the distinguished “Advocacy Award” by the Alzheimer’s Association for my volunteer work as an advocate for the cause.
Eight years ago I was elected by the Alzheimer’s Association as an “Alzheimer’s Ambassador” where I am responsible for educating members of Congress on the disease and what we need to do as a nation to help find a prevention, cure or way to slow it down. I, alongside of my fellow ambassadors and advocates, work tirelessly to support increased funds and lobby for further legislation on caregiver services and education. We storm Capitol Hill each spring where we help paint Washington D.C. purple (the color of Alzheimer’s Awareness as well as the color of the International Pageant System) to raise awareness of our cause. Two years ago at the annual Alzheimer’s Forum in Washington D.C., I was chosen to be interviewed by Fox News where I had the unique opportunity to share more about what we do.
Currently I serve as Alzheimer’s Ambassador to Senator Bob Menendez here in the Garden State. I am fortunate to have an incredible relationship with the senator and his staffers, where together we collaborate on numerous programs and legislative asks. Senator Menendez lost his mother to Alzheimer’s disease, so he too fully understands the significance of fighting this illness. Alzheimer’s disease is not a “red” or “blue” issue, as when you put them together they make purple! Everyone has a reason to help end Alzheimer’s!!!
Today, my family and friends continue to participate in the annual Alzheimer’s Walks, which happen to be the largest fundraisers each year for both the Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s New Jersey. In 2019 our team, Miles of Millie was chosen as an Ambassador Team for the “Walk to Fight Alzheimer’s” by Alzheimer’s New Jersey. I used those pageant skills once again to get up on a huge stage to speak to nearly a thousand people that day about my personal story.
Furthermore, I use my advance degree in health care administration coupled with my pageantry skills to run a local department on aging and my own health education and consulting business. My LLC provides me the opportunity to travel and educate others about Alzheimer’s and related disorders. In October of 2019, I was chosen as one of eight U.S. Dementia Ambassadors to travel to Amsterdam where I was able to visit a Dementia Village and learn how they provide person-centered care in order to share that knowledge with others here in the states. My next international venture will be to Singapore to help teach Alzheimer’s and dementia care seminars. I hold multiple licenses and certifications in geriatrics and dementia care and love the opportunity to continue to enhance my fund of knowledge wherever and whenever I can. I will also continue participating in other fundraisers and events that support the cause.
For further information on Alzheimer’s disease, related dementias and on how you can get involved, please visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at www.alz.org. And/or if you are interested more specifically on how you can make a difference here in New Jersey, visit Alzheimer’s New Jersey at www.alznj.org. We are blessed to have both of these non-profits here to support those directly impacted.