Celebrating Black Champions in the Miami Valley

Did you know that African-Americans are about two times more likely than white Americans to have Alzheimer’s and other dementias? In honor of Black History Month, we want to highlight local supporters who are championing this cause within their communities.

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Meet Cheryl Wheeler, Certified Dementia Practitioner and Advocate, Ambassador and Board Member for the Chapter: “I have been involved in helping to end Alzheimer’s for over a decade because I know first-hand how devastating the disease can be, particularly in the African-American community which has approximately twice the risk. I’ve seen the challenges of Individuals, caregivers, friends and family courageously battling this disease, and I know the tremendous work the Alzheimer’s Association does to help people living with dementia and to support their caregivers. There is just no way families can effectively cope with a disease like Alzheimer’s without the vital support the Miami Valley chapter provides. There is a tsunami coming with Alzheimer’s as the number of people with the disease is expected to triple by mid-century. We have an urgent need to get to work NOW to stop this disease, and I’m determined to do my part. That’s why I volunteer with this wonderful organization including serving on the board, participating in the Walks, Reason For Hope Breakfast, and The Longest Day Event. As the Director of Senior Services for Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley I owe it to the persons I serve to continue to be an ambassador and advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association in our community. We all owe it to the people we love to be involved.” #ENDALZ #BlackHistoryMonth

11407130_928219803883515_8314203135580692382_nMeet Cedric Howard, top fundraiser for the Miami Valley Chapter: “I really believe in the work that the Alzheimer’s Association does for individuals dealing with the Disease as well as their families who support them. My family has dealt with Alzheimer’s through the illness of my grandmother and aunt who both had it and my mother who served as a caregiver for both of them throughout their illnesses until each passed away. It is difficult to watch your loved ones almost fade away right before your eyes. Their physical bodies are present but due to the loss of brain cells, memory, and varying levels of functionality, the person that you have known and loved slips away. The Alzheimer’s Association focuses on several areas, one of the key areas is on Research. I believe that if we continue to raise awareness and funds, a cure for Alzheimer’s can be found in our lifetime. I’m a supporter for Research and making people aware of what Alzheimer’s is, how to live with it, and finding a way through it.

Once I learned that Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading fatal disease in America for which there is no cure I felt compelled to help bring about a change in that statistic. There are a lot of causes that we can put our energy into but I think that this is a top priority. With people living longer, having greater access to healthcare, treatment, and medicine, we have to do everything that we can to make finding a cure a priority. I didn’t want to just talk about it, I wanted to actively pursue helping to bring about a positive change that will affect people’s lives in the present day and for years to come.

 “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

The 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama

I share this sentiment and incorporate these words into my life and lifestyle. I believe that when we say we love, we have to show it. I’m committed to working with the Alzheimer’s Association until a cure is found. I would like to see people’s lives changed because of the raised awareness, research, and attention to the details of those living with the Disease and helping others to detect early tendencies to contract it and prevent it all together.

I believe it’s important to know that it is not your fault that your loved one has Alzheimer’s. Currently, the determinants, are still under review but there isn’t anything that you can do to completely bypass getting Alzheimer’s. Second, know that you are not alone. Experiencing your family members going through the physical and mental changes associated with Alzheimer’s can be confusing and sometimes frustrating. You may just want them to return to the way that they were before and be in denial of the care that is needed in order for them and you to work through all that needs to be done. Stay encouraged and know that there are others who have in your shoes and are willing to share their stories and advice. And finally, although there is a lot to be said I’ll say this – Seek Education, Training, and Resources to help. Find a support group and/or caregiver’s network in order to navigate through all that is ahead. There isn’t a simple solution for this Disease. It is challenging and takes your energy and willingness to provide the best care possible in your situation. Just be encouraged and know that you are going to have to work but it can be done. There are a lot of us out here who are willing to help. Seek us out to get the support that you need.

At the Alzheimer’s Association, diversity is imperative and integral to our mission. It is vital to what we do, and is a promise we make to those we serve. Our team of dedicated professionals understands that valuing diversity and inclusiveness is critical to the success of our mission.

We seek to be inclusive of the millions of people currently affected by Alzheimer’s disease, their caregivers and the communities in which they live. For more information, visit alz.org/diversity.

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