In honor of the launch of the Sunflower Charm Bangle, we are thrilled to welcome Joan Uronis as a guest blogger. Joan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at a young age, changing her life instantaneously and raising many questions. Read on to discover how she is helping to spread awareness as an Alzheimer’s Association National Early-Stage Advisor and Board Member and why her brain matters more than ever as she battles the disease.
My name is Joan Uronis and I was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2011 at the age of 62. Although it came as a shock, Alzheimer’s was not new to me.
I had been employed in healthcare for over 20 years, and my experience in hospice and assisted living gave me the privilege of working with families facing Alzheimer’s. I thought I understood what they were going through. I was wrong.
It was only when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s that I fully understood the impact of this disease. My father was her full time caregiver, and I also cared for her. I lived the devastation of this disease with my family.
Nearly 13 million women in the United States are affected by Alzheimer’s, either as people living with the disease or caregivers. As real a concern as breast cancer is to women’s health, women in their 60s are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s over the rest of their lives as breast cancer.
During my mid-50s, I noticed it was getting harder to complete familiar tasks at work. I often traveled for my job and never had difficulty finding my way home from the airport. But on one occasion, I became confused as to whether I was to go north or south on the freeway. I was finding it harder to multi-task. I was working harder, not smarter — which was not me.
These concerns led me to see my internal medicine doctor who recommended I see a neurologist. I was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) at the age of 60, and two years later, Alzheimer’s disease.
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s affects the entire family. My daughters have seen their mom’s successful career in healthcare abruptly come to an end. My husband, Al, who had a career of his own, is now preparing to become my caregiver. None of us thought this would happen at such a young age. Our life’s journey has changed.
Yet, my brain still matters. It is a leader who is interested in doing whatever it can to change the course of this disease. It is a problem solver and Alzheimer’s is definitely a problem that needs to be solved. And, my brain is an advocate for those of us with the disease and those yet to be diagnosed. To help spread the word, I am part of the Alzheimer’s Association women’s initiative, raising awareness of the devastating impact the disease has on women.
As women, we have tremendous power to come together and create change – and companies like Alex and Ani are part of that effort. This month, they are introducing a new Sunflower Charm Bangle that benefits the Alzheimer’s Association.
I will continue to use my voice and advocate for as long as I can, fighting for a better future for my daughters and all families facing Alzheimer’s. We want to be 1 million women strong in this movement — and you can join us. I encourage you visit alz.org/mybrain and share why your brain matters in the fight against Alzheimer’s.
Want to help in the battle to end Alzheimer’s? Through December 2015, 20% of proceeds received by Alex and Ani from selling the Sunflower Charm Bangle, with a minimum donation of $25,000, will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association to advance research and enhance care and support for those living with Alzheimer’s.