Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Help Put An End to Alzheimer’s

November 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm , by

I’m 23. Am I worried about Alzheimer’s? Not really. But for some time now I’ve had this sinking feeling that I probably should be. My grandmother may not have an official diagnosis yet, but the evidence is starting to pile up. My mom noticed something was wrong when my grandmother started calling about her TV remote not working, and then calling back 10 minutes later as if they’d never spoken. Now she has to be reminded repeatedly where I am: New York. Soon she’ll have to be reminded who I am: Amelia, second grandchild. And after that, who knows, maybe the reminders won’t work anymore.

It’s devastating to watch someone lose their mind, no matter how old they are. Today, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Deaths from Alzheimer’s rose 66 percent between 2000 and 2008, and the disease will continue to affect more people as baby boomers reach 65 and older.

The worst part about Alzheimer’s is that it robs you of your memory and your personality way before it takes your life. Besides wreaking havoc on patients’ and caregivers’ emotional lives, the financial toll is huge. In 2011, Americans will spend $183 billion to care for those with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, we’ll be spending $1.1 trillion, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

All this boils down to one thing: we’ve got to act now. We don’t know exactly what causes Alzheimer’s. We don’t know enough about how to prevent Alzheimer’s. And we don’t have effective treatments to even slow it down. We’ve got to figure this out! Read more

A New Way of Looking at Alzheimer’s

October 28, 2009 at 8:41 am , by

I STILL DO-coverChances are you know someone whose family is coping with Alzheimer’s disease. More than 5 million Americans have it. For the millions who are caregivers, it’s normal to feel anger, denial, depression or worse. Many of them probably don’t want to be reminded that November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.

“But this disease has been in the closet too long,” says Southern California photographer Judith Fox, whose new book, I Still Do: Loving and Living with Alzheimer’s, is an inspiration. She wants to remove the stigma and sense of isolation so many families feel.

Just three years into her marriage to Dr. Edmund Ackell, a multi-talented man who was a surgeon, pilot, artist, athlete and university administrator, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. For years, Fox had to see the man who’d wielded a scalpel or a basketball with utter confidence forget how to use the coffeemaker or recall what someone just said to him. But instead of falling into despair, Fox decided to capture the still-very-much-intact soul of the man she loves in luminous, funny, charming and heartbreaking photos. It was another way of loving him and touching him, she explains.

“Why do family caregivers do what we do?” she asks about this devastating disease in the video below. “Because it’s a privilege to help somebody,” she says.. “We can do no less.”

Fox is brave. It took me years to be able to talk or write about the caregiving journey I took with my father during his long illness. And I wish I’d had more practical resources like Leeza’s Place, founded by TV celeb Leeza Gibbons during her caregiving experiences with her mom.

But I now see how much I learned from that time in my life and how it helped me grow. Fox’s beautiful book I Still Do is a powerful reminder that love can endure—no matter what.