My name is Andres Martin and this week I turned 32 years old. I’m a proud father, husband, and veteran. Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to recognize how precious my birthdays are. My military service has taught me this, the birth of my daughter has taught me this, and my genes have taught me this.
You see my family is from a region in Mexico that is host to the “Jalisco mutation,” a mutation which guarantees carriers will develop early-onset Alzheimer’s, and one for which I recently tested positive. My diagnosis answered a lot of questions. It answered why my father began to lose his memory in his 40s, why he got lost on simple driving routes, and why he eventually passed away at the age of 51.
To me, Alzheimer’s had previously been a disease for the elderly, that you fall into with age. But now I understand there are millions of millennials like me touched by Alzheimer’s and dementia in some form, primarily as caregivers. In fact, there are approximately 1.5 million millennials providing Alzheimer’s related care in this country. I’m also worried about my two-year-old daughter, Alexis’s risk of developing the disease. She has a 50 percent chance of carrying the Jalisco mutation and developing early-onset Alzheimer’s just like I will. On my birthday, I think about the time I have left with her and just how precious every minute and every birthday is.
Alexis has not yet been tested for the Jalisco mutation, but I know I need to do everything I can now to make sure she is prepared and that more young people have a voice in the movement to address this chronic disease. I’m adamant about approaching my Alzheimer’s journey with a positive outlook – I think I’m blessed to have found out about this early because it has given me the time to fight and change the world for my daughter. In the fight against Alzheimer’s, I have hope. We are one team, this is one fight, and we all need to step up to the plate. People need to know they CAN take action – get involved in research, clinical trials, and empower your life to take positive steps toward a resilient brain.
For my birthday this year I have five wishes that will make the world a better place for those living with Alzheimer’s and take key steps toward stopping Alzheimer’s. These are my birthday wishes:
1. Clinical trials with full participation to accelerate a cure as quickly as possible.
Alzheimer’s clinical trials have historically had low levels of participation, especially among Latinos and African Americans. But clinical trials are the key to curing Alzheimer’s. In fact, the first person who is cured of the disease will be someone in a clinical trial. With full, diverse participation we are taking as many shots at a cure as possible.
For my birthday, I’m asking that you visit https://www.usagainstalzheimers.org/research and use our zip-code tool to find a trial near you.
2. $350 million in additional funding for Alzheimer’s research to find a cure
Earlier this year, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s called for a $350 Million increase in funding for Alzheimer’s research at the NIH. If we are to achieve our goal of treating Alzheimer’s and developing a cure by 2025 for the 5.8 million Americans living with this disease, Congress must act now.
Sign on to the UsAgainstAlzheimer’s petition to Congress calling for this funding increase.
3. National paid family leave to reduce the burden of caregiving for someone living with Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s caregivers provide 18.5 billion hours of unpaid care, and it’s taking a toll on them. 60 percent of caregivers for loved ones with dementia report financial pressures caused by not being able to work or having to reduce the number of hours they can work. It’s time we have strong, national paid family leave policy, including flexible work hours and telecommuting, to make alternative work arrangements more widely available.
Sign on to the UsAgainstAlzheimer’s open letter to Congress, calling on lawmakers to make paid family leave a priority in 2019.
4. Mobilize young people to build the next generation of advocates
I recently joined AARP, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, and the Youth Movement Against Alzheimer’s for a podcast on how young people can be brain powerful. We must listen and learn from young people facing these challenges so we can build solutions that work for all of us. Listen to this great podcast to learn more directly from young people touched by Alzheimer’s.
5. A cure for my daughter and for everyone whose life has been touched by Alzheimer’s.
Everything I do, I do for my daughter. I left the active service and moved from Hawaii to Maryland to be closer to the clinical trial I participated in at Walter Reed Medical Center. By doing so, I am making a choice to exert power over the disease, embrace hope for the future, and ultimately, help find treatments and a cure for my daughter, and every future generation who may be affected.
On my birthday, please share my message with others and do anything you can to help Us accelerate a cure and stop this disease.