An Intimate Look at Alzheimer’s

By: Ashmar Mandou

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - HealthThe return to her home roots of Chicago proved to be a bittersweet moment for journalist and anchor of NPR’s Latino USA Maria Hinojosa. “It is great to come back to the community that served as my cultural base, which is Pilsen,” said Hinojosa. She arrived with a sensitively charged agenda to shed light and open up a discourse about an important matter close to her heart, Alzheimer’s disease. “It has really been an extraordinary experience because when you are dealing with an issue like, Alzheimer’s disease, it really isn’t just about a number, it is a very emotional and intimate story about your loved ones and your family,” said Hinojosa. A story Hinojosa felt compelled to share.

In 2007 her father, a medical practitioner, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a diagnosis Hinojosa describes as shocking to her and her family members. “We never really talked about this type of disease. Growing up, we talked about eating right and exercising, but never did we have discussions about serious diseases such as, Alzheimer’s,” said Hinojosa. “So when my father was diagnosed we were in denial at first. Denial, an emotion that is always attached to the illness. But we overcame that and quickly started focusing on what we could do as a family.” Her personal connection with the disease was the catalyst for creating an intimate forum for people to share their stories. Chicago was first on her schedule.

Tuesday morning, Hinojosa joined Alivio Medical Center’s Executive Director Carmen Velasquez and Sr. Programs Manager Susan Vega, Dr. Maria Marquine from Rush University Medical Center, and Roy Cosme, of Pfizer Helpful Answers at the Casa Maravilla Senior Center for a lengthy panel discussion on the disease, how to cope with the issue as a cargiver, and where to look for resources. On hand were Hinojosa’s parents who revealed their daily struggle. “I do not know if I could have been as revealing as we were on this panel, were it not for the fact that it is happening in this community, in this city where I grew up, and with my parents,” said Hinojosa. “There were a lot of tears in the audience. When something like this affects a family, I want to tell them that it is okay to be emotional.”

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - HealthUnfortunately, research is beginning to uncover the impact of Alzheimer’s disease among the Latino community. According to the Alzheimer’s Association 2010 report, Latinos are about 1.5 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Latinos face a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias because they are living longer but, have higher rates of cardiovascular risk factors. During the first half of the 21st century, the number of Latino elders with Alzheimer’s and related dementias could increase more than six-fold, from fewer than 200,000 today to as many as 1.3 million by 2050. And with the recurring issues of healthcare accessibility and loss of jobs, Latinos are facing hardships when it comes to seeking resources.

Roy Cosme of Pfizer Helpful Answers, who was one of the panelists, spoke about the resources Pfizer provides for uninsured and underinsured Latinos living with Alzheimer’s. “We know the day to day struggles most families are facing during this economic climate. We know the last thing a caregiver wants to worry about when their family member is sick is where to get the medicine,” said Cosme. “This is why our program is helpful because it provides less financial pressure and allows people to feel more in control of their lives.” Through the Pfizer Helpful Answers program, medicine is provided for free or at a savings to patients who qualify and reimbursement support services to insured patients.

If you would like to learn more about the Pfizer Helpful Answers program, visit or call 866-706-2400. You can also visit the Alzheimer’s Association at, or call 800-272-3900 to learn more about group meetings. You may also visit Hinojosa’s page, at to view the discussion taken at Casa Maravilla online.

Comments are closed.