Mega Doctor News–
Dedication of love and how The National Memory Screening Day was initiated
By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez
Based on the fact that her own mother was suffering with Dementia, Dr. Laura Matos opted to spend some time out of her busy schedule to find out more about the diseases of Dementia and Alzheimer’s. “There was very little information in English and absolutely nothing in Spanish,” said Dr. Matos to Mega Doctor News.
She pointed out that it all started about thirteen years ago when her mother the late Maria Teresa Brambila developed Dementia. “I started to look for information and surprisingly there was very little in the Valley about these two devastating diseases.” She said, “There was an office in Harlingen with limited information but nothing in Spanish.”
Dr. Laura Matos is bilingual, but she thought that it was important to have literature in Spanish to share with the caregivers helping to care for her Mom.
She wasted no time and offered her services to the Alzheimer’s office telling them, “I would be happy to translate some of the information available to be shared with caregivers.” She said, “I got involved with them doing those translations and as the time passed I became more involved up to the point that I translated the manual for the caregivers, it is about one hundred plus pages.”
All her work translated into blessings especially for the predominantly Hispanic community. The information was equal to a light at the end of the tunnel.
After finishing the project, she was asked to start a support group in Spanish. “We started first in McAllen and then moved to Edinburg, and as far as I know this is the only support group in Spanish in the entire Valley,” Dr. Matos said.
Unfortunately, her mother passed away ten years ago. Today she feels that all her work with the Alzheimer’s project is part of her Mom’s legacy. “This is something I needed to do for her and after she left me I continued to do it for everybody that needed information, education and support.” She said, “I don’t want anybody to suffer because of lack of information and understanding like I did with my Mom.”
She knew that there was more to be done and together with Michael Sauceda, Associate Administrator at the South Texas Behavioral Health Center, they decided to affiliate the support group into The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.
“Now we have committed to celebrate The National Memory Screening Day every year, since eight years ago,” she said.
For Mrs. Matos the most important part about the Memory Screening Day effort is the opportunity provided to people to find out if they have any memory problems. She indicated that this is the best way for early detection in time to seek more testing and assistance and therefore get an early diagnosis.
She said, “The cure for quality of life for a patient with Dementia and Alzheimer’s is the early detection, which will give you the opportunity to control the symptoms and to make your own decisions before the illness takes over.”
According to her, once the disease takes over, people are not capable of making decisions; someone else will have to make them for you.
“The importance about early detection is that it gives you the opportunity to say how you would like to be cared for because eventually the capability to make those decisions will not be there,” Dr. Matos made this statement very clear.
She explained that the medications delay the progression of the disease, so people keep functioning for a longer period of time and with less years of suffering.
In the Valley, according to her, statistics indicate that Dementia or Alzheimer’s hits Hispanics at the age of 70 but that they have seen two cases at forty years of age. “This was genetic, most members of the family had it and as a consequence die earlier.”
She emphasized that a healthy diet contributes to your overall health. She said, “If you don’t have diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, your chances of developing Dementia are lower. So a healthy diet, exercise and the control of your concurrent diseases will help to prevent Dementia.”
Mrs. Matos said that the challenges to set up the screening project are that people chose not to know, so consequently during the first year the attendance was low. Today is different, she says, “The second and subsequent years up to now we promoted extensively and more people are coming and learning how to defend themselves from these diseases.
Dr. Laura Matos is the wife of Dr. Cesar A. Matos, a medical doctor with a specialty in psychiatry, and she is his office administrator. She is determined to continue providing more education on Dementia and Alzheimer’s diseases for the growing Rio Grande Valley community. MDN
Written by Roberto Hugo Gonzalez the 2009 SBA Journalist of the Year Award Winner & The 2009 and 2012 Paul Harris Award recipient.