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It was an emotional event in the Capitol as lawmakers and leaders with the New Mexico Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association (NMCAA) delivered their perspectives on a disease estimated now to be directly impacting over a 100,000 New Mexicans.
“I understand the impact and stress Alzheimer’s has on families,” said Senator Richard Martinez (D-Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Santa Fe). “I was a caregiver for a loved one afflicted with Alzheimer’s and this is a disease that is hard on everyone.”
The occasion was Alzheimer’s Day in Santa Fe, and the venue was the Capitol Rotunda, where a crowd of nearly 100 gathered to hear an executive proclamation followed by remarks from senators, representatives and caregivers as well as the Ombudsman of the Aging & Long Term Services Department, Sondra Everhart.
Representative Jeannette Wallace (R-Los Alamos, Sandoval, Santa Fe) in particular spoke about the “cost on the inside” to families, loved ones and caregivers that is beyond the monetary toll.
“We tend to forget that our neighbors who are caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients need our support, all the time,” Wallace said. “When we talk about the cost of Alzheimer’s we usually think financial cost, but the cost of Alzheimer’s is a cost to us all on the inside.”
Alzheimer’s impacts an estimated 38,000 New Mexico residents afflicted by Alzheimer’s plus another 65,000 New Mexico residents providing $854 million of unpaid care annually.
The master of ceremonies was NMCAA past president Greg Gillogly. Other legislative leaders who spoke included Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Bernalillo) who was thankful for Alzheimer’s Day and the education on the disease’s impact and Rep. Conrad James (R-Bernalillo) who understands the need for heightened awareness around Alzheimer’s disease.
“Alzheimer’s Day at the Legislature gave us an opportunity to share the growing impact Alzheimer’s has on New Mexico families with our elected leaders and Capitol visitors,” said Agnes Vallejos, Executive Director of NMCAA. “We are very thankful to all the speakers for sharing their stories and for the surge of support from communities around the state through letters and art work.”
The New Mexico Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.
Probably the most famous person to contract Alzheimer’s was Ronald Reagan, who would be celebrating his 100th birthday on Sunday.