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Learning to Live and Progress with Alzheimer's

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerJanuary 27, 2016

Author Greg O’Brien and his family are the focus of a special series from NPR, “Inside Alzheimer’s.” The family gives an honest and open account of their feelings and lives as O’Brien journeys through early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Learn more about this series and how the O’Brien family is learning to live and progress with Alzheimer’s.

Making Alzheimer’s Personal

As the Alzheimer’s epidemic grows with no treatment and cure in sight, more disease statistics become public knowledge:

  • 1-3 seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in America
  • Unless a cure is found, more than 16 million Americans will have the disease by 2050

These statistics are startling, but with a focus on numbers, it is crucial that we honor the actual people and their caregivers who see the effects of Alzheimer’s on a personal level every day.

This is what a special series from NPR, “Inside Alzheimer’s,” aims to do. Author Greg O’Brien was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s five years ago. Through the NPR series, O’Brien and his family give the world unmatched insight into what it’s like to have the disease, to know it’s growing as you live your everyday life.

Through their honesty and transparency, the series fights the stigma and stereotype often associated with people who have Alzheimer’s while raising awareness of the disease. 

Learning to Live with Alzheimer’s

In the latest installment of the “Inside Alzheimer’s” series, O’Brien posts a video that gives more insight into beginning the process of simplifying his life, while he still can.

O’Brien said he loves life and is not afraid to die. What he does fear is the ‘in-between,’ the long road of Alzheimer’s that brings mental decline, loss of independence and will bring his family pain.

His family has been open about personality changes that Alzheimer’s brings, like increased anger and a quieter, more solitary spirit. They are open about loving him through each stage as he learns to love new versions of himself.

O’Brien acknowledges the changes Alzheimer’s brings, stating:

“I know I can’t go back to who I was before. I’ve got to learn to live with the new me.”

Progressing with Alzheimer’s

O’Brien continues on his quest to raise Alzheimer’s awareness through the lens of an investigative journalist, sharing what Alzheimer’s feels like in a short film from the perspective of the person who has the disease.

The film, produced by Nathan Dappen and focused on O’Brien’s Alzheimer’s journey, gives us remarkable insight into the struggles of a person living with Alzheimer’s, ranging from daily struggles of cognitive decline to the impact the disease has on familial relationships. The film combines the personal aspect of the disease with O’Brien sharing his struggles while also facing the science behind the disease with input from Rudolph Tanzi, professor of neurology at Harvard University and director of the genetics and aging research unit at Massachusetts General Hospital.

What do you think about the special series from NPR and the short film centered on O’Brien? How are series like this fighting the stigma that surrounds Alzheimer’s? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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