Alzheimer’s Association volunteers drive advocacy at legislative level

By: Julia Demma Last Updated: April 16, 2019

The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization strengthening the momentum of the Alzheimer’s disease movement. The Association has been successful in growing awareness for the disease, and aims to build a much deeper and broader understanding of the value of its mission. One way members are tackling this is by recruiting more advocates and volunteers.

Kathryn Gauthier has been a key volunteer and supporter of the Greater Indiana Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association since 2009, and is now taking a lead role as an advocacy ambassador volunteer for Northwest Indiana.

“In my new role, I’m mainly trying to get the point across to community members that we need more helping hands and more funding aimed at allowing for more research, which will help us reach our goal of finding a cure someday,” Gauthier said.

Gauthier plans to travel across Northwest Indiana and spread the word about the need for volunteerism within the Association. The association will also send out a plethora of flyers with advocate information and education.

“It feels good to volunteer. When you volunteer your time, you personally feel like you’re doing something to help the association and the research,” Gauthier said.

There are many ways to get involved with the Association as an advocate and volunteer. Opportunities include sending emails to legislators, posting updates to Facebook, hosting events or even meeting in-person with Indiana’s elected officials, and so much more. The Alzheimer’s Association believes there are many ways you can make a difference, and they value any time donated.

Each year, advocates across the country travel to Washington D.C., to participate in a forum. At the event, advocacy experts train first-time attendees on how to be an expert advocate to promote the Association’s federal legislative priorities with policymakers.

More than 1,200 advocates from all 50 states converged on Capitol Hill at the most recent forum on April 2. Gauthier stressed to Indiana legislators the need for more funding, and how it will help the cause.

“It’s important to get across to Congress that we need the funds in order to move forward with research and provide our caregivers the time off they deserve. They truly do so much for the Association, and we would like to see this area of volunteerism grow and be recognized and treated accordingly,” Gauthier said.

Other highlights of the forum included asking for an appropriation of $315 million aimed at advancing research; proposing the Younger-Onset Alzheimer's Disease Act of 2019, which would allow individuals under the age of 60 to access programs under the Older Americans Act; and the hopes of securing funding to support the infrastructure outlined in the BOLD Act.

The BOLD Act was passed by Congress at the end of last year, creating an Alzheimer's public health infrastructure across the country focused on public health issues, such as increasing early detection and diagnosis, reducing risk, and preventing hospitalizations. But funding has yet to be allocated to move forward, so the Association has asked Congress for $20 million for that project.

After coming home from the forum in Washington D.C., Gauthier hopes to continue to spread the word and recruit volunteers who can offer help in any way.

“The more we get the word out, the better chance we will have finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. The goal is to get involved in the community more and extend our reach not only to those affected by the disease, but to family members and loved one who have experienced repercussions from Alzheimer’s,” Gauthier said.

One of the biggest events hosted by the Greater Indiana Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association is the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which will be held on October 5 at Washington Park in Michigan City. Volunteers are needed for the event to run smoothly. Duties include putting signs up, distributing T-shirts, signing walkers in, and more.

Pre-registration for the Walk ends at 12:00pm on Friday, September 20. If additional teammates are not registered online by this time, they will need to fill out a registration form at the Walk. To sign up, visit http://act.alz.org/.