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Changing Minds …
many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimer ’ s disease .
And yet , it ’ s a diagnosis that can feel very isolating . The words themselves are hard to hear , Gary said . “ It ’ s often the first time this person has been confronted with the reality that this may be happening to them ,” he explained . “ It makes you doubt your own self-worth .”
Immediately , questions began running through Gary ’ s mind : “ It was the stuff of everyday life : When should she stop driving ? What about the possibility of her wandering off and getting lost ? Those are just some of the hundreds of questions that came up .”
Specialty Assistance Gary and Sandra were grateful to have experienced clinicians to turn to . “ One of the things that makes our clinic so unique is the support we provide to the patient and their family starting at the initial diagnosis ,” said Claudia R . Padilla , MD , research medical director of the AT & T Memory Center . Patients meet with a multidisciplinary team that includes behavioral neurologists and neuropsychologists at the center , which also offers resources including a care and support specialist and experienced nurses .
“ Every day , I receive a comment from a patient or family member regarding how warm , friendly and approachable our staff is ,” Dr . Padilla said . “ That is so important for the patient and the family as they face many challenges through the course of the disease .” Dr . Padilla knows firsthand the experience of being a family member : Her grandfather and grandmother both suffered from Alzheimer ’ s . Watching their battles inspired her decision to provide this level of specialized care .
The dedication and expertise offered by the AT & T Memory Center have improved Sandra ’ s life and his own , Gary said . “ The center made a huge difference by giving Sandra the right medications at the right time .” The progression of Sandra ’ s symptoms has slowed , and her anxiety and depression — diagnoses that many patients with Alzheimer ’ s also battle — have been greatly reduced . “ While we can ’ t cure Alzheimer ’ s , we can make an impact on the symptoms ,” Gary said .
Expanding Availability of Care The Fernandes family feels strongly that this specialty care should be available to anyone battling memory disorders . They are grateful for the care they received at the AT & T Memory Center , a specialized facility that philanthropy helped create and continues to sustain its efforts to treat patients and assist families .
“ I started thinking about the people I knew , and what a difficult time they had with Alzheimer ’ s ,” Gary said . Demand is high for this specialty care , and many people are forced to go without . “ As good as your internist or primary care physician may be , they just don ’ t have the understanding and focus on Alzheimer ’ s and how to deal with it , much less treat it .”
Specialized resources are necessary , Gary knew — even people with financial means , connections to care and excellent family support still need greater availability of care , he said . “ And then people who don ’ t ? Oh my God ! How do they handle this ?”
The AT & T Memory Center , led by director Cindy Marshall , MD , helps patients like the Fernandes family battle memory disorders and their underlying causes .
“ My old boss Ross Perot said , ‘ If you see a snake , you ’ ve gotta kill it .’ If we can help come up with resources or support , we ’ ve got to do it . So we ’ ve decided to do something .”
– Gary Fernandes
Gary and Sandra Fernandes have pledged their own support to be part of the change they wish to see . The family has made a gift of $ 100,000 to help support needs now , and has included in their estate plan a gift of $ 500,000 in general support of the AT & T Memory Center .
“ My old boss Ross Perot said , ‘ If you see a snake , you ’ ve gotta kill it ,’” Gary said . “ If we can help come up with resources or support , we ’ ve got to do it . So we ’ ve decided to do something .” Gary now invites everyone to join him and Sandra in supporting the center ’ s expansion .
Relying on Medicare reimbursement alone won ’ t allow for the availability of care or the comprehensive services that are needed , said Cindy Marshall , MD , director of the center .
“ Every dollar donated translates into care ,” she said . “ The importance of philanthropic support to our center cannot be overstated : The need for specialized care today is great and it ’ s growing . Our model is uniquely equipped to provide care for patients and their families who need us now , and for those who will need us in the future . This is where you can join us in making a difference .”
While the world prays that medical science one day discovers a cure for Alzheimer ’ s , Gary knows that patients and their families living with the disease now cannot wait .
“ We want to bring more focus to current patients . Research gets all the attention , but where we can make a big impact is the AT & T Memory Center , where we can help people dealing with this disease now and for years to come ,” he said . “ That ’ s where I hope we can make progress now while others support research . That ’ s what I hope comes from this : more attention and action .”
THE COMPASS / BAYLOR SCOTT & WHITE FOUNDATION NEWS / SPRING 2023