Springfield woman raises awareness of Alzheimer’s after family tragedy

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Using tragedy as an opportunity for advocacy, after losing her mother to Alzheimer’s, one Springfield woman is traveling around the country to raise awareness.

Daisy Duarte’s mother passed away in January after a 10-year fight with Alzheimer’s.

Duarte did everything she could to help her mother Sonia Cardona.

The moment she heard Sonia’s diagnosis, Duarte shut down her business.

“I knew I had to change my hat,” Duarte said. “I knew that from a daughter role I had to be the mother and she was now the daughter. That’s how I started looking at things.”

She bathed her, fed her and even installed house alarms and cameras.

“To make sure I knew what she was wearing if she was to walk out,” Duarte said. “So, I just had to prepare myself with little things.”

Eventually, Sonia couldn’t walk or swallow and Duarte stopped feeding her solid foods.

“It’s like having a newborn,” Duarte said. “Only thing is through a newborn you start off with the puree and then you move onto food and with adults with Alzheimer’s, you go backward.”

Sonia died at age 65.

“It’s been a tough road but it’s all well worth it,” Duarte said. “It’s made me more aware of the disease that’s taken away 75% of my family.”

Just a few years ago, Duarte learned she has the gene, so far she has no symptoms.

For the past six years, she has been involved in a clinical trial that hopes to find a treatment that delays when someone gets the disease.

“What’s a shot once a month? Just take the risk,” Duarte said. “Doesn’t matter which one it is. It’s better than fading away at an early age.”

Duarte spends the rest of her free time traveling to places like Canada, Arizona and Texas.

“I just give speeches just telling my story and how to care for a loved one that has Alzheimer’s,” Duarte said.

She also advocates for a platform called Brainguide a medical questionnaire over the phone or the internet.

“I wish they had this when I was working through these steps with my mom,” Duarte said. “I would’ve gone a lot quicker to the doctor.”

The family’s story has been told in People Magazine, and PBS aired a documentary about it in 2017.

Duarte says through it all, Sonia always had a smile on her face.

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