Being a public servant for 14 years has been an enriching experience. Little did I know that this experience would lead me to advocate 24/7 not only for the constituents in the state of Florida and Orange County, but for my mom as well.
Several years ago, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and that diagnosis forever changed my life. Not only do I work full time managing a staff of 13 individuals, but I also care for my mom’s basic and immediate needs. Due to cognitive impairment, my mom is not capable of fending for herself, so I have had to become her advocate. In the process, I have realized that as a caregiver, I have benefited from my professional skills. Being an advocate for constituents has made me savvy in navigating the system in a way that many others are not. This experience has shaped what advocacy means to me.
My mom is unable to formulate her thoughts and sentences, so when she talks to individuals outside of her circle or is asked how she feels – for example, during emergency room visits and talks with her medical team – I constantly advocate for her. Had I not made the personal sacrifices to be her voice, she would have limited ability to communicate. Advocating for her also made me realize that I have to advocate for other dementia patients and caregivers because there are many misconceptions about this disease. It is not a mental health disease, but one where the brain shrinks and impairs memory and judgment.
I am honored to be an Alzheimer’s Ambassador to Congresswoman Val Demings and advocate for individuals like my mom. Since I became an Alzheimer’s advocate, I have vociferously urged our policymakers to address the Alzheimer’s crisis because there are over 5 million Americans living with this disease. Our goal is simple: to ensure that our nation addresses Alzheimer’s as a public health crisis. We advocates are a force to be reckoned with on social media, particularly Twitter. Collectively, we highlight the strain Alzheimer’s is placing on our health care system and families.
The famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi – “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” – resonates with me every day both professionally and personally. Every day, we should get into the habit of reminding ourselves that we must be the change that sends ripple effects in our community. I encourage you to embrace an issue that you are passionate about, so you can be the change the world wishes to see.
Interested in becoming a Featured Contributor? Email topics you’re interested in covering for GovLoop to [email protected] And to read more from our Winter 2021 Cohort, here is a full list of every Featured Contributor during this cohort.
Usha Tewari is a first-generation Indian-American born and raised in Orlando. Ms. Tewari has over 14 years of experience working for elected officials at the federal and local levels. She currently works full-time in local government managing 13 individuals and is a caregiver to her mother who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s/Dementia. In 2019, she was Orlando Magazine’s “Woman of the Year” with her advocacy efforts. In her spare time, she devotes herself to advancing Alzheimer’s/Dementia awareness at the grassroots level in her community as well as Tallahassee and Washington D.C. She serves as an Alzheimer’s Ambassador for Congresswoman Demings.