A month before my 18th birthday, my mother gave me a voter registration form to complete. She instilled in me the importance of being a responsible citizen. I have been voting ever since.
By 2013 my mother was no longer able to vote and by 2015 she could not feed herself. My mother was one of 5.7 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s. Most are cared for by people like me, a family member providing unpaid care while also working full time. There are over 16 million unpaid caregivers in the United States.
As a constituent of the 14th Congressional District, I have listened to candidates Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Anthony Pappas but have not heard them say how they will combat Alzheimer’s and support families that are impacted by dementia.
America’s population is aging. Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only disease among the top 10 causes of death that cannot be cured, prevented or even slowed.
If you do not currently know someone with Alzheimer’s, that is likely to change because researchers predict 14 million people will be affected by 2050. Alzheimer’s is quickly emerging as a pressing public health issue. We are all vulnerable.
The pain of watching my mother’s condition deteriorate was unbearable. Day by day, I was losing her and was helpless to stop the progress of her disease. When she died, I wanted to ensure that her struggle was not in vain, so I channeled my pain into advocacy.
We must take this issue seriously and elect pro-active leaders committed to allocating the necessary resources toward eradicating this disease and supporting all those affected. I know that if we come together we can get this done. We cannot afford to wait. Time is not on our side.
Teri Graham is a resident of Jackson Heights and lives in the NYS 14th Congressional District.