People around her were surprised with her transparency about her diagnosis. “It wasn’t easy sharing the news, but I needed to put it out there so that we could all begin dealing with the new me. It’s never easy, but I want to serve as an example and advocate for education and outreach in diverse communities,” she says.
Gutierrez felt scared and not knowing much about what was happening to her and she turned to the Alzheimer’s Association to better educate herself about this progressive disease. Shortly after, she became a member of the Alzheimer’s Association National Early-Stage Advisory Group, which helps raise awareness about this disease by sharing her personal experience with others. “I had to do so much research on my own, so it is my goal to highlight everything the Alzheimer’s Association does to help families navigate a diagnosis,” she says.
“They have an excellent and constant developing website of information for families, individuals, caregivers, and opportunities to talk with others like me through ALZ Connect. I stopped feeling alone with this disease when I discovered the National Alzheimer’s Association. The people, information and easy access to resources were so inspiring to me. I am becoming more involved with the Washington Chapter and believe it is a life saver for families and everyone dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.”
The Hispanic community is often hesitant to talk about Alzheimer’s disease, and pins symptoms to getting old, and they also have the mentality to take care of their own until the very end. “I want to try and let them know that they don’t have to be alone in this or alone with this disease, there are resources out there to help them,” says Gutierrez.
“This stigma in the Hispanic community that people shouldn’t air their family problems out in the open, needs to end. By voicing our issues and frustrations we are banding together in unity and that’s a good thing. Supporting each other and our families is a good thing, especially at a time when our loved ones are going through such a change in their lives, battling Alzheimer’s. It’s important now more than ever, that we help each other.”
Since her diagnosis, she’s no longer working full time and is losing more of her cognitive abilities. “I have worked all my life so this change has been difficult for me,” she says. Gutierrez continues to do everything she needs to do to fight this disease for as long as she can by eating right, exercising, taking her medications, and getting plenty of sleep to help slow the progression. She is a warrior and explains that she will never give up because God only gives you what you can handle and she’s not ready to give in to this disease.
“I am the new me: I love life, my daughters, my family and plan to help other people of color learn more about MCI, Alzheimer’s, and the help available for families confronting a diagnosis. Alzheimer’s is overwhelming. No one should face this devastating disease alone and thanks to the Alzheimer’s Association – no one should,” says Gutierrez.