Jerry Mallicoat is the Miami Valley Chapter’s new Systems Outreach and Advocacy Director! Read below to learn more about Jerry, his professional background, and why he wanted to work for the Alzheimer’s Association.
How long have you been working for the Alzheimer’s Association?
I have worked at the Association for about one month.
What is your professional background?
All of my professional background has involved marketing, communications and sales planning and development, largely in health care and health insurance, including ProMedica Health Systems in Toledo, The Cleveland Clinic Health System, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and Medical Mutual of Ohio. I have served in various staff, front-line and senior management positions. I started my career in a community services agency in Sylvania, Ohio, where I helped plan and promote various community services and events including senior center activities. It was what I call a “tulip” position (title-in-lieu-of-pay), but I learned a lot! It was there that I first developed a love for elder care and senior services because the senior center clients were always so engaged in and appreciative of the work we did. My transition to health care marketing provided the opportunity to educate people about health issues and to help them to gain access to services that could improve or save their lives.
I also love food. Throughout my career I have been amazed at the power and currency of food in our lives. Food helps us celebrate life’s milestones and can help foster understanding and peace among friends and foes. I’ve seen many business deals made during the course of a good meal among those previously at odds over an issue! With my healthcare background, I also came to appreciate the importance of good nutrition in leading a healthy productive life. My passion for food led me to attend culinary school to become a classically trained chef, and afterward I started and operated a personal chef business specializing in food for people with special diet restrictions.
Like many people, I became acutely aware of the special needs of the elderly while being the primary caregiver for my mother who had cardiovascular-related dementia. I began to imagine my own life as an older gay person without any children to help me. After talking with a few friends in similar situations, we decided to do something about it. We founded a non-profit organization called Rainbow Elder Care of Greater Dayton to help ensure that older lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) adults could live their later years in positive, life-affirming ways. Rainbow Elder Care works collaboratively with area senior services agencies to help them better meet the needs of older LGBT people.
I graduated with a degree in journalism/public relations from The Ohio State University, and have done postgraduate work in marketing, healthcare communications and liberal studies at the University of Toledo and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Why are you drawn to the Alzheimer’s cause?
My experience as caregiver for my mother made me more aware of the tragedy of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. My mother-in-law died from Alzheimer’s Disease, and I watched her horrible loss of self and the toll it took on the entire family. Even today her children worry about their own cognitive abilities. My work with Rainbow Elder Care connected me with the Alzheimer’s Association, and I came to know the people here and this entire organization as passionate advocates for all those affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia, including older LGBT people. I wanted to be a part of that in the hope that I can help make a difference in ending Alzheimer’s Disease for everyone.
What has been your favorite thing so far about working for the Alzheimer’s Association?
It’s all about the PEOPLE. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a more dedicated, compassionate group of people who really and truly care about serving people in such life-affirming ways. It’s been gratifying to experience the inclusive culture at the chapter and national level. I feel honored and grateful to be associated with such a great organization. I also greatly admire our clients and families. They are AMAZING examples of love, dedication and determination. They are all true heroes!
What are you most looking forward to while working for the Alzheimer’s Association?
I look forward to establishing a solid process to help doctors and other healthcare providers to diagnose earlier and to more easily refer patients and their families to us for help and support. Proper early diagnosis is so important.
If you could give one piece of advice to families affected by Alzheimer’s, what would it be?
Act NOW if you think there is a problem. Don’t wait. Talk openly with your doctor(s) to determine whether you or a loved-one have Alzheimer’s. Procrastinating will only make everything harder in the long run. Because of my experience in healthcare and then watching my mother-in-law’s decline, I was better able to identify my own mother’s dementia in the early stages. By acting early, I and my siblings were able to talk with my mother and one another while we still had time to understand her preferences and needs regarding care. We also were better able to support one another and make sound collective decisions in ways that we knew honored our mother’s wishes instead of having to make assumptions and rash decisions based on emotion in emergency situations. In the end, we all knew without regret that we had done for our mother exactly what she wanted and needed.
Finally – what is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?
There’s nothing like a good glass of red wine except maybe chocolate-covered strawberries! My other favorite things are spending time with my friends and family, especially my husband John and our dog Rosie. I also love cooking, traveling, staying fit and reading when I have the time.
Jerry was able to attend this year’s Advocacy Forum in Washington, D.C.!