Pauline’s passion: teaching others about Alzheimer’s

Written by Sheri Katz

Pauline Martinez followed in her mother’s footsteps when she chose to study gerontology. Inspired by a grandfather’s determination to educate others despite his own great health challenges, Pauline leads the chapter’s training programs for family caregivers and community professionals.

Leading education efforts

Pauline has been the Education Services Manager for the past 5 ½ years, overseeing community education, professional training programs and chapter conferences.  

Pauline, speaking at conference

Pauline’s current focus is on Updates on Dementia, the largest conference in our chapter. Over 700 professionals will attend on May 9 in South San Francisco.

This year’s focus is on public policy and it can be used to improve Alzheimer’s diagnosis, care and support. Speakers will highlight federal, state and local initiatives.

Besides putting on two conferences, Pauline assists her colleagues with over 18 other conferences held in our region.

Following in her mother’s footsteps

Pauline’s grandfather, Opa, was a leader in the underground resistance in the Netherlands during World War II.  After the war, he used a typewriter to record his experiences.

Opa was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and lived with the disease for 18 years.  When it became difficult to use his hands, he continued to type using only one finger. Pauline was inspired by his stories.

Pauline gives credit to her mother for her career path. “Seeing my grandfather age with a mission and purpose inspired my mother to go into gerontology,” said Pauline. “My mother then recruited me.” Pauline studied molecular and cellular biology and has a master’s degree in gerontology.

Working with family

After she finished her master’s degree, Pauline had the chance to work with her mother.  Pauline worked on a project called “Protecting Our Elders,” which raised awareness in faith communities about elder abuse and neglect.  

Pauline, second from right, with her neighborhood Walk to End Alzheimer’s team

“I really enjoyed bringing community members together to raise awareness about a common cause,” shared Pauline. The project evolved into an annual summit with over 600 clergy and lay leaders.

At the same time, Pauline interned at UC San Francisco, interviewing caregivers whose loved ones had dementia. “I was working nonstop,” she said.  

Educating the community

One of Pauline’s passions is educating professionals and family members of people living with Alzheimer’s.  “I like expanding their knowledge,” shared Pauline, “and giving them the latest and best information.” 

Joining the Alzheimer’s Association has given Pauline the chance to blend her loves of gerontology and education.

Challenges of getting a diagnosis

Pauline, on left, at Advocacy Forum

Pauline educates people on the differences between Alzheimer’s and normal aging. “The healthcare system is not properly set up for Alzheimer’s to be diagnosed in the early stage,” she said.

“The general public thinks doctors will catch Alzheimer’s during regular appointments and help with care planning.”  However, most primary care providers wait for their patients to express concerns before they test for cognitive impairments.

Improving the caregiver experience

Pauline works to make the caregiver experience more positive. She coordinates a variety of workshops for caregivers. In the Living with Alzheimer’s and Savvy Caregiver series, family caregivers get to troubleshoot symptoms their loved ones may be showing.  

Participants learn how the way they interact with their loved ones affects their quality of life and that of their loved ones. “People are busy, but it helps to take time to invest in Alzheimer’s education,” Pauline encourages. “It can make the situation easier and more manageable.”  

Pauline, on far right, with 2018 Updates on Dementia Planning Committee

Pauline teaches people to be advocates and educate themselves on available supports.  “I want them to know about community resources that are available,” Pauline shared, “including services through the Alzheimer’s Association.”  

“Alzheimer’s can be a challenging disease,” Pauline said. “When we see research, it makes me hopeful for the future. But there is still a lot of work to be done.”

Visit our website to learn more about our upcoming education programs and conferences or professional training opportunities in California and Nevada or call 800.272.3900.

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