Many celebrities who have been touched by Alzheimer’s have used their influence to help raise awareness about this disease, promote greater research funding and support families caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s.
The sixth leading cause of death in the United States, Alzheimer’s disease has no cure and its causes are not yet fully understood. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 68% between 2000 and 2010, while deaths from other major diseases decreased.
Celebrities Who Help Raise Alzheimer’s Awareness
Alzheimer’s disease affects more than five million Americans, and it does not discriminate. From actors to sports figures to politicians, many well-known figures have suffered Alzheimer’s or watched a loved one deal with its effects. Many of those celebrities have chosen to speak out about the debilitating consequences of Alzheimer’s disease, spearheading efforts to raise awareness of the disease and lending their names to charitable causes that help fund research and support caregivers.
Here is a list of celebrities whose lives have been touched by Alzheimer’s:
Former network news correspondent and anchor Stone Phillips filmed and produced Moving With Grace, a documentary about his aging parents — a father with chronic heart problems and a mother with dementia. The film follows the couple as their adult children help them transition from their family home to a retirement community and eventually to assisted living. Phillips made the film because he “wanted to capture [his mother] before her dementia became too advanced.” He encourages others in his situation to do the same, saying: “Take out your phone, do some interviews, get some video. It’s precious to have.”
CNN’s chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley recently shared the story of her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s at the 2014 Alzheimer’s Association Advocacy Forum. She told personal anecdotes about her mother’s decline, describing signs the family missed. When it comes to approaching lawmakers, Crowley emphasizes the importance of sharing personal stories “about the person you’re losing and what it’s done to your life.” She adds, “The story is what moves [Congress]… Whatever it is you’re thinking you don’t want to talk about is probably what you should say.”
British actress Carey Mulligan has been an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society since 2012. In that role, she has supported the charity on a number of campaigns and projects, most recently the Run to the Beat half marathon that takes place in London. When Mulligan was a teenager, her grandmother was diagnosed with dementia. She discusses how the Alzheimer’s Society helped her family understand dementia and guided them through her grandmother’s care. Mulligan says, “I hope to do all I can to help defeat dementia… By speaking about my grandmother’s dementia I hope to shine a light on the condition.”
Addressing Congress this past February, Seth Rogen explained how he learned the “ugly truth” of the disease having watched early-onset Alzheimer’s take its toll on his mother-in-law. Her condition started as minor memory lapses but advanced to a point where she forgot loved ones, how to speak, how to feed and dress herself, and, eventually, how to go to the bathroom, all by age 60. Together with his wife, Lauren Miller, and some friends, Rogen established Hilarity for Charity as part of the National Alzheimer’s Association to raise money for families struggling with Alzheimer’s care, educate the public and support cutting-edge Alzheimer’s research.
Sharing Alzheimer’s Stories
Celebrities telling their personal stories about Alzheimer’ disease, gives voices to their loved ones battling the debilitating effects of the disease. Ideally, their efforts will not only raise awareness but help reduce the shame attached to Alzheimer’s and inspire the next generation to do what it can to support efforts for a cure.
Do you have a personal Alzheimer’s story? Has a celebrity’s story helped shape your perspective of Alzheimer’s disease? Share your story with us in the comments below.