TALLAHASSEE — Each year, Alzheimer’s advocates from across the state of Florida gather at the Capitol Complex in Tallahassee for the Alzheimer’s Association’s state advocacy days. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, this year’s Alzheimer’s “Rally in Tally” – to be held March 9-11 – will take on a new, virtual format.
Starting at 6:15 p.m. EST on March 9, the week’s events will kick off with a purple lighting ceremony, during which Florida’s Old Historic Capitol building will be lit up in purple, the signature color of the Alzheimer’s Association, to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease. The event will be livestreamed on social media and will include statements from advocates, state legislators and government officials, as well as Michelle Branham, Alzheimer’s Association vice president of public policy for the state of Florida, as she announces the organization’s 2021 state legislative priorities.
“Over this past year, Florida’s older adult population has faced so many challenges due to COVID-19,” Branham said. “As our state continues to address the ongoing concerns associated with the pandemic, we must also remain vigilant concerning the public health crisis of Alzheimer’s disease, which continues to affect the lives of more than 580,000 Floridians and their loved ones. In this new, unprecedented year, we must strengthen our commitment to those families to ensure they receive the care and support they need.”
From March 9-11, Alzheimer’s advocates will meet virtually with their legislators to share their personal experiences with Alzheimer’s and dementia and their perspectives concerning Florida’s approach to dementia education, support services, research and funding.
For Bradenton resident and Alzheimer’s advocate Deb Jobe, those topics are critical, as just two years ago, she learned she is living with younger-onset dementia.
“It was life-changing, and our world was just turned upside-down with this (diagnosis),” Jobe said. “That was one of the reasons I became an advocate.”
But while the diagnosis left her reeling at first, Jobe said that attending her first “Rally in Tally” uplifted and empowered her with the realization that she was not alone.
“There are so many of us, all different ages, who are facing Alzheimer’s or another dementia,” she said. “And not only does it impact us, it impacts those that care for us as well. What Rally did for me was show me that I have a voice and it means something – it makes a difference.”
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. More than 5 million Americans are currently battling the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and Florida has the second-highest prevalence of the disease in the country with more than 580,000 diagnosed individuals.
In a message to the millions of others facing the challenges of dementia, Jobe said: “Your voice can make a difference. Your voice is critical; your voice is powerful. … So, I hope you’ll join us and advocate for yourself, for a family member, for the masses of us and the care partners.”