Choosing to embark on an Alzheimer's journey is not one most of us take. Generally, Alzheimer's chooses us and generally later in life. That is not the case for today's guest, Zach Smith. Zach volunteered at our local Alzheimer's Associations chapter as a way to fulfill a graduation requirement. At the time his grandmother was already living with Alzheimer's. Therefore, it was a natural place for him to want to volunteer.
During his volunteer time, Zach met his future supervisor. She was in charge of Public Policy for Northern California/Northern Nevada. Volunteering was not glamorous but it was eye-opening. Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death for seniors in American but got the least amount of research funding. Feeling angry at this financial imbalance Zach decided to become more involved.
A career In Alzheimer's Policy Advocacy
Congress had passed the National Alzheimer's Project Act which introduced a Secretary position into the office of the National Institute of Health. (The National Alzheimer's Act was introduced in February 2010 & became law in January 2011.) While volunteering, Zach attended the State Advocacy Day, National Advocacy Forum, and worked with the legislative ambassador volunteers. Consequently, he decided to make a career in policy advocacy for Alzheimer's. Changing the course of the disease for everyone affected in the future was Zach's vision.
Studying health care public policy in college combined with advocacy work made his career vision a reality. While completing his studies Zach was lobbying and participating in the legislative process. Seven months after graduation he started working in the Alzheimer's Associations program department. A year later he was promoted to the public policy department where he's been for 2.5 years. Zach says it's his pleasure to come to work every day, work with advocate volunteers, and teach them what he did as a volunteer.
Zach teaches that sharing our stories with our elected officials, both state and federal is an important step. This step helps them understand the need for legislation and increased funding. With increases in funding, we will be *that* much closer to a cure.
During the course of this podcast, I've talked to many people whose lives were changed by Alzheimer's. Zach is in a unique category as the youngest person I've spoken to. He has a passion for changing the future of Alzheimer's care. Zach's grandmother would be immensely proud of what he's doing and what he'll achieve.
Changing the Face of Alzheimer's Work
A fascinating side note is an increase in Millennials who are caregivers. Over 10 million Millennials care for someone with Alzheimer's. Sadly, no Google search tells me how many millennials go into policy advocacy but I'm sure it's not high.
Meeting Zach's grandmother would have been something I would have enjoyed. Hearing about her reminds me of my grandmother who also had memory loss at the end of her life. Regular listeners know, we're not sure if it was due an aneurysm or dementia. Assuming Alzheimer's is my thought because her mother also had dementia at the end of her life.
If you're interested in becoming a state advocate (you don't have to do politics) you can contact Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org Working with Zach will be a joy, I promise!
A $10 Million Dollar Ask for Alzheimer's
More info on The National Alzheimer's Project Act
Where Else To Find Fading Memories
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