My fight against Alzheimer’s – Georgia Advocate Story

Alzheimer’s Association advocate Donna Camacho is going to be attending “The Alzheimer’s Impact Movement Advocacy Forum” being held in Washington, D.C. this weekend, March 31 – April 2, 2019.

Donna herself has been attending the Advocacy Forum since 2013.

“In 2013 I was invited to go to Forum as an advocate,” she said. “I signed up to be an Ambassador soon after the Forum that year. I would say, this event chose me.”

In this year’s forum, there will be various programs such as advocacy training, special speakers, receptions, caucus meetings and finally to meetings with Congress members.

Special speakers include Dr. Maria Carrillo, the Alzheimer’s Association Chief Science Officer, and Richard Lui, MSNBC Anchor and an Alzheimer’s Association Champion.

“This is powerful,” she said. “You have to be there to feel the full impact of more than 1,300 people who are passionate about a single cause and who speak with one voice! We make a difference and we work hard to accomplish that!”

Also as part of the Forum, Donna believes they will be asking for additional funding for Alzheimer’s research.

“I believe we will also be requesting funding to support the BOLD act that was signed into law in December 2018,” she said.

The Building Our Largest Dementia, or BOLD, Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act is a new bill that will create a public health infrastructure to implement effective Alzheimer’s interventions across the nation

“This Forum will also renew our commitment to bring awareness to Alzheimer’s disease and to continue our advocacy while we support families living with this disease,” she said.

Donna, born in South Carolina and currently living in Savannah, is a Registered Nurse and works with helping place the elderly in nursing homes.

“[I] currently contract with the Coastal Georgia Area Agency on Aging to review assessments for eligibility for Nursing Home Placement under the Elderly and Disabled Waiver Program,” she said.

Her first involvement with the Alzheimer’s Association began 14 years ago.

Copyright 2019 Shari Zellers Photography

“I started by volunteering for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in 2005,” Donna said. “This was after my Mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and I turned to our local chapter for guidance.”

Since then, she has become extensively involved in various aspects of the Association.

“I’ve volunteered in a variety of positions over the years. I’ve been part of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s since 2005,” Donna said. “I’ve answered phones, stuffed envelopes, served on several committees, co-chaired the Coastal Board of Directors, and served on the state Board of Directors.”

Her current passion is participating in political and policy activism.

“I am currently the [Association] Ambassador to Congressman Buddy Carter and the State Champion to Representative Jesse Petrea,” she said. 

Although it hasn’t always been easy, Donna knows how important this work is.

“A couple of years ago, I was feeling burned out and planned to take a break after Forum that year,” she said. “I realized while I was at Forum that I could not stop, and I have not thought about taking a break since that time.”

When Donna’s mother was diagnosed, she was in her late seventies, and she died in 2007 at the age of 86.

She will never forget the memories she has with her mother, though.

“I have a lifetime of wonderful memories of my Mother,” she said. “She was the kindest person I have ever known. She and my Dad provided me and my two sisters with an enviable childhood. I could write a book on how fortunate we were to have been brought up in such a loving, supportive home.”

Since her mother’s diagnosis, Donna said she has met so many people who have been diagnosed with or who are caregivers for those living with Alzheimer’s, and this continues to make her passionate about the cause.

“I’ve learned so much about this disease. Probably more than I ever wanted to know,” she said. “I have a depth of understanding and compassion that I believe can only come once you have personal experience with something. Not to say that we are not compassionate caring people otherwise, but there is a different level that comes with experience.”

As much as she has helped the Alzheimer’s Association, the Association has also been there for her and she wants others to know it is there for them, too.

“I want everyone to know that there is support through the Alzheimer’s Association and that we are supporting research to find a treatment and/or a cure!”

Donna just received the 2019 Advocate of the Year Award from the Georgia Chapter for her long term dedication to help us end Alzheimer’s!

To learn more about the advocacy form or how to get involved yourself, you can visit alz.org/Georgia.

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