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Woman with Alzheimer's gene cares for mother with dementia, advocates for a cure

Daisy Duarte is 41 and cares for her mother with Alzheimer's disease. But she tested positive for the gene, and now spends her time working for a cure.
Daisy Duarte with her mother Sonia Carona.

Daisy Duarte works as a part-time waitress in Springfield, Missouri. Her passion is not serving food, but rather serving the Alzheimer's community, and she is doing it every way possible with every ounce of energy she has.

Every 66 seconds, an individual is diagnosed with Alzheimer's. All other diseases in the top 10 are decreasing, but the number of people who die from Alzheimer's is on the rise.

Daisy's mother, 61-year-old Sonia Carona, was a teacher for 29 years, but at age 55 she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. She doesn't speak and she doesn't walk.

Sonia is cared for by her daughter. Daisy says, so far, there have been no medical advancements to offer hope for her family.

"Seventy-five percent of my family has either died or has Alzheimer's," she said. "And I wasn't going to be another number without doing something about it.

Although she has no symptoms, Daisy, who is only 41, has tested positive for the gene for the Alzheimer's disease.

So in a sense, she is looking into a mirror of her future when she looks at her mom.

"I don't think about it," she says. "I don't wonder when it will hit me."

She doesn't have the time to worry about it because she is busy being an advocate. She was the subject of the PBS documentary Every Minute Counts. She has met with United States senators, spoken at universities, and told her story to People Magazine.

For the last three years, Daisy has been involved in a study at Washington University. She gets shots once a month and makes trips to the hospital for cognitive testing.

Daisy says she would not have a child because she didn't want to pass the disease on to another person.

"I know we can find a cure one day," she said. "I have faith."

Families living with Alzheimer’s can contact the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline — (800) 272-3900 — for information, local resources and emotional support. More information is available at alz.org. You can also sign up for the Walk to End Alzheimer's here.

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