Alzheimer’s Disease Taking Omar Sharif

Sharif Latest Victim Of Global Epidemic

Legendary actor Omar Sharif is battling Alzheimer’s disease, his agent Steve Kenis confirmed. He said that the 83-year-old actor was resting at his home in Egypt. No additional details were provided about the 83-year-old actor or his care. His son, Tarek Sharif, revealed the diagnosis just a few days earlier.

Omar Sharif Alzheimer's disease

“It’s difficult to determine what stage it’s at. It’s obvious he’ll never improve and it will get worse. He still knows he’s a famous actor. The loss of memory affects above all specific things, details like when he was in a specific place or who he acted with in a specific film,” Tarek El-Sharif told El Mundo.

“He remembers, for example, that it was Doctor Zhivago but he’s forgotten when it was filmed. He can talk about the film but he forgets its name or he calls it something else instead like Lawrence of Arabia.”

Sharif began his career in the 1950s. His role in Lawrence of Arabia in 1962 earned him two Golden Globe awards and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He also played the lead role in Doctor Zhivago in 1965, which earned him another Golden Globe. He also starred in Funny Girl with Barbara Streisand in 1968.

Julianne Moore Earns Oscar For Portrayal Of Woman With Alzheimer’s Disease

Editor’s Note: Congratulations to Julianne Moore. Her performance in Still Alice just earned her an Oscar for Best Actress at the 2015 Academy Awards. The movie and her role could change the face of Alzheimer’s disease forever. Please join us as we advocate for the truth and reforms that can help contain many areas of mismanagement that are contributing to the reckless spread of the disease.

Still Alice Explores Alzheimer’s Disease

Julianne Moore is on a roll. Her latest film Still Alice premiered in Toronto in September with little hype and emerged as one of the biggest hits of the festival thanks to her powerful performance. The role earned her a Golden Globe Award and now an Oscar for Best Actress.

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Moore plays a Columbia professor diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease in the new movie, which is based on Lisa Genova’s 2007 novel by the same name. The movie profiles a renowned linguistics professor struggling with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease–a real-life scenario playing itself out millions of times around the world every year.

Moore has already netted multiple awards for Still Alice including Best Actress at the Gotham and Hollywood Film Awards, the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards for her work in Still Alice.

Moore spoke with Indiewire a few months ago about the work that went into her portrayal of the disease and about working with co-star Kristen Stewart, who plays her daughter in the film. The interview follows below:

I caught this film back at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it totally floored me. I don’t think I’ve cried that much in my entire life, let alone in two hours.

Julianne Moore earns Oscar for Still Alice

“Oh, thanks for that. That’s one of the things about this movie is how touched people are by it, and I do feel like it’s genuine. It’s not forced in terms of peoples’ reactions. It’s not like the movie is trying to make you cry, it’s just people really connect to it. Which is nice,” said Moore.

I’m sure you’ve encountered people who know or have known people with Alzheimer’s disease. What’s that been like to hear real stories and how the film touched those people?

“I got a note from a friend of mine’s wife saying she’d had a family member with Alzheimer’s too, and she suddenly felt close to her. And felt like she understood something about the experience. For me, all the research that I did — people have this notion that with Alzheimer’s, somehow the “self” disappears. They’re like, “That’s not the person I knew,” and “Somehow the self has gone away, somehow they’re not present anymore.” But in all my research and dealings with people, I’ve found the opposite. The people, they were changed, certainly, but their personality somehow remained. That was really, tremendously moving to me.”

Do you know anyone personally who suffered with Alzheimer’s in your life?

I don’t know anyone impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, yet. I’m really, really very lucky — that hasn’t been something that’s affected my family.

One of the film’s two directors, Richard [Glatzer] has ALS. And I’m curious what that lent to your process — to work with somebody who’s going through that struggle every day, who went through that struggle on set with you. 

How did you approach portraying the scope of the disease in such a compressed amount of time?

It was completely dependent on the amount of research I did. I couldn’t have done this movie — there was no way I was going to be able to figure out what to do with this movie — unless I’d had the proper amount of time to do research. Thankfully, I worked on it for about four months. I started research while I was doing [“The Hunger Games”] “Mockingjay.” I started watching every doc I could get my hands on. Every film, every documentary, every interview. So, there, once I got back to the city, I started with the head of the national Alzheimer’s Association, Elizabeth Gelfand Stearns, to talk about her experiences. And then they set up these Skype calls with three women across the country — all who had been diagnosed with early onset, or what they call “younger onset,” which means before the age of 65. And the youngest person I spoke to was a woman named Sandy Oltz, who was diagnosed at 45, which was was astonishing. From there, I went to Mount Sinai and spoke to Dr. Mary Sano, who is head the Alzheimer’s research there — and some of the other researches and clinicians. And I had a neuropsychiatrist administer the cognitive tests, which are extensive and shockingly difficult [laughs]. Then I went to the New York Alzheimer’s Association and met with the support group there, and spoke to the women in the groups about their feelings and experiences. And then from there, went to a long-term care facility and met people who were really pretty declined. So it was four months.

How did you map out Alice’s gradual loss of memory? It’s so expertly modulated in the film, but that must have posed such a huge challenge for you. 

Thank you, it did! As I was saying before, if I hadn’t done the research — not that I understand what it’s like to have Alzheimer’s, anything I had any question about, I asked. I wouldn’t do any behavior I hadn’t witnessed. There would be times Rich, and Wash and I were talking about something. I remember there was something in the movie where I’d be looking and something and think, “I don’t understand that behavior. I don’t know what I’m looking at.” And we came up with the thing about tying her shoe, working really hard to tie her shoe. And I did see people working very hard to complete actions that seemed to be simple actions. So, it was always about that. Trying to be really specific, and just think about what I wanted to do in each scene. I went to the script a gazillion times, so that when we were shooting it, there was no question about what I would be doing. So I just kind of kept in my head that way.

Alzheimer’s Disease News via

Alzheimer’s Disease Takes Host Of Car Talk

Magliozzi’s Alzheimer’s Diagnosis His Worst

Tom Magliozzi died of Alzheimer’s disease this week. A car-repair expert who with his brother Ray brought a fun sense of humor to public radio with their “Car Talk” show that combined sibling-razzing wisecracks with savant-like mechanical diagnostics. NPR announced his death and said the cause was complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer's takes Tom Magliozzi

The Magliozzis, graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, were owners of the Good News Garage in Cambridge, Mass., when they debuted their talk-radio show in 1977 on WBUR in Boston.

NPR began syndicating the show a decade later, broadening public radio beyond its regular offerings of politics and current-affairs programming.

Explaining the program’s appeal, one broadcast executive told Rolling Stone magazine, “Even our classical stations are picking the show up, though Vivaldi and ‘Car Talk’ don’t seem to go together. . . . It’s just a phenomenon.”

By 2005, the Magliozzis — who called themselves “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers,” or else “Fender Face” and “Piston Puss.” The brothers drew 4.7 million listeners a week on about 600 radio stations.

They also had a syndicated newspaper column, offering tips to those who viewed their cars as the offspring of Stephen King’s possessed vehicle Christine. The arcana of engine and auto-body maintenance intimidates many drivers, but the Magliozzis captivated listeners by demystifying, debunking and plain disrespecting the work of the profession’s gatekeepers, from the blowhard garage mechanic to the boardroom executives of Detroit. Tom Magliozzi once held up the Chevrolet minivan for ridicule, questioning why it needed so many cup-holders.

“That’s one area where General Motors has excelled,” he said. “When people talk about the Japanese being ahead of us, they don’t hold a patch to us in cup holders.”

With their thick Boston accents and naughty-boy cackling, the Magliozzi brothers brought an earthy, blue-collar appeal that is not generally regarded as a hallmark of public radio. They teased their executive producer, crediting him as Doug “the subway fugitive, not a slave to fashion, bongo boy frogman” Berman. They signed off their program with the warning, “Don’t drive like my brother.”

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The hosts seemed to relish opportunities to mimic the groans, bangs and murmurs of car trouble. Mostly, they offered listeners what a mysterious rattle likely meant and tips on how not to get cowed or ripped off by body-shop personnel.


AC/DC Founder Rocked By Brain Disease

Malcolm Young Leaves Band Because Of Dementia

The family of founding AC/DC guitarist Malcolm Young has confirmed the illness that forced the 61-year-old to quit the band because of dementia symptoms.

“Malcolm is suffering from dementia and the family thanks you for respecting their privacy,” they said in a statement, according to People magazine.

malcolm young AC/DC dementia

The group had previously announced in April that Young would be taking a break from the band and that it would be recording a new record without him. When AC/DC announced that it would be putting out the record, “Rock or Bust,” this fall, they confirmed that Young would not be returning to the band, “due to the nature of Malcolm’s condition.” They did not go into the specifics of the illness.

Young’s nephew, Stevie Young, played rhythm guitar in Malcolm’s stead on “Rock or Bust.” He will also be filling in for the elder Young on the group’s upcoming world tour in 2015. According to a family friend, the guitarist could no longer remember how to play AC/DC songs.

“If you were in the room with Malcolm and walked out, then came back in one minute later, he wouldn’t remember you. He has a complete loss of short-term memory,” according to an unnamed source.

Scottish-born brothers Malcolm and Angus Young formed AC/DC in 1973. The Australian band sold more than 200 million albums, with their 1980 record Back in Black their biggest-selling hit.

“We miss Malcolm, obviously,” AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson told Classic Rock in July at a time when the band was optimistic about the guitarist’s return. “He’s a fighter. He’s in the hospital, but he’s a fighter. We’ve got our fingers crossed that he’ll get strong again. … Stevie, Malcolm’s nephew, was magnificent, but when you’re recording with this thing hanging over you and your work mate isn’t well, it’s difficult. But I’m sure (Malcolm) was rooting for us.”


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Ben Bradlee Tackling Alzheimer’s Disease

Editor’s Note & Update: RIP Mr. Bradlee. You made the world a better place. May we all have your passion for truth and justice.

News Legend Becomes Part Of Growing Story

Former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee’s health has declined over the past two months and he has begun hospice care, his wife, Sally Quinn, said in a television interview broadcast Sunday.

Bradlee, 93, has suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for the past several years. His health recently deteriorated to the point where he sleeps 20 hours a day and no longer eats much, Quinn said. He began hospice care at the couple’s home in Washington in mid-September, she said.

Ben Bradlee Alzheimer's disease

Bradlee was editor of The Post from 1968 to 1991, during which the newspaper rose to national prominence for its coverage of the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate scandal, which helped lead ultimately to the resignation of Richard M. Nixon as president. He is currently vice-president at large of The Post. During his tenure, The Post expanded its network of news bureaus across the country and around the world and became the leading newspaper in Washington.

Bradlee himself became one of the best-known editors in the world due to the success of “All the President’s Men,” the Oscar-winning movie about the Watergate reporting of Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Bradlee was portrayed in the movie by Jason Robards. On Nov. 20, 2013, President Obama awarded Bradlee the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Quinn, who has been married to Bradlee for nearly 36 years, has discussed Bradlee’s health issues previously, most recently in a column published in mid-August in The Post. She wrote then that she delayed telling Bradlee about the death of the couple’s longtime friend, actress Lauren Bacall, as a result of his infirmities.

She offered more details about his condition and treatment in an interview with C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb. The interview was recorded Sept. 18 and broadcast Sunday night.

Among other things, Bradlee has ended his weekly routine of coming to the newspaper to have lunch with old colleagues, Quinn said. His health has been so fragile that the organizers of a local Alzheimer’s and dementia support group asked him to stop attending its meetings.

“In the last six weeks, he’s just had such a decline that he can’t participate at all anymore,” said Quinn, who said she is writing a memoir of her life with Bradlee.

Quinn said she hid Bradlee’s health issues from the public until it became obvious at a business conference several years ago. During a question-and-answer session, Bradlee had trouble responding to questions about his life, such as his service in the U.S. military during World War II or when he came to The Post.

“You could see he was in decline,” she told Lamb. “You couldn’t hide it anymore.”

At first, she said she tried telling herself that his care was manageable. “I thought, ‘Oh, well this is going to be not so hard because Ben is going to lose his memory and he’ll ask me to repeat things.’”

But over time, his condition became more difficult to manage. At a reception last year, she encountered former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor, whose husband, John, had had Alzheimer’s disease. “She put her hands on my shoulders and her eyes sort of teared up and she said, ‘I just want you to know this is really horrible. It’s really, really horrible. It’s terrible. There’s nothing good about it.’”

More recently, Quinn said, “a certain peace has come over me, and I’ve had this feeling of serenity because what I thought was going to be horrible, the caretaking part of it, has really become something almost sacred about it. And that’s not drivel. I didn’t expect that. I just expected I would be having a nervous breakdown and it would be too horrible. I don’t think we have been as loving with each other as we are now.”

Despite his ailments, she said, Bradlee remains happy. “Ben has never been depressed a day in his life,” Quinn said. “I’ve been with him 41 years and I’ve never seen him depressed, and he’s just very happy … He’s very aware of being taken care of and fussed over and he appreciates that … He’s totally content.”


Pat Bowlen Steps Away From Broncos to Tackle Alzheimer’s Disease

Bowlen Took Team To Several Super Bowls

Pat Bowlen, one of the NFL’s longest serving and most successful owners, relinquished control of the Denver Broncos because of his continuing battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Joe Ellis, the longtime team president, will run the team and become chief executive. He will have “full authority on all matters,” the team said in a statement. The team was put in a family trust as part of a plan that may ultimately cede control to one of Bowlen’s children.

Pat Bowlen Alzheimer's disease

“Mr. Bowlen’s long-term hope is for one of his children to run the Broncos at the appropriate time, and his succession plan will continue to be implemented by our organization in compliance with NFL ownership policies,” the team added in its statement.

Bowlen, 70, had been reducing his role with the team, though he was still a member of the NFL’s powerful broadcasting committee.

“This is a sad day for the NFL,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “From building a championship team that is a pillar of the community to his important work for the league on television and labor matters, Pat’s love of the game drove him and we have all benefited from his passion and wisdom.”

During his three decades as owner, Bowlen has built one of the league’s strongest franchises. He is the first owner to accumulate 300 victories in his first 30 seasons, during which time the Broncos won six American Football Conference titles. The team won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998. John Elway, the quarterback of those teams, is now in charge of football operations for the Broncos.

According to Forbes, the Broncos franchise is worth $1.16 billion, making it the 13th most valuable one in the league. The Broncos have sold out their home games for 44 consecutive seasons, and the addition of quarterback Peyton Manning two seasons ago has helped boost sponsorships, too.

The Broncos’ current success is a far cry from the team’s early years as an inaugural member of the A.F.L. It took the team 14 seasons to finish with a winning record. Bowlen, who made his money in oil, natural gas and real estate, bought 61 percent of the team in 1984 from Edgar F. Kaiser Jr. The Broncos returned to the Super Bowl for the second time in club history two seasons later.

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Bowlen Tackles Alzheimer’s Disease

Down Syndrome May Hold Clues For Alzheimer’s Prevention

Down Syndrome Boosts Risk Of Dementia

By Annette Karmiloff-Smith, Professorial Research Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London

Alzheimer’s disease is typically a disease of later life, and age is the biggest known risk factor for the condition. But babies with Down syndrome, who always develop brains like those with Alzheimer’s later in life, don’t always go on to develop dementia. A study that I am involved in, called LonDowNs, is now trying to find out why this may be, with the hope of finding ways to slow down the development of dementia.

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The global economic cost of Alzheimer’s is estimated to be US$1 trillion per year by 2050. Delaying the onset of the disease by only six years could reduce those affected and save more than $400 billion. Alzheimer’s disease causes memory loss, mood changes and problems with communicating and reasoning. Apart from age, other factors can increase the risk of an individual developing the condition. Some of these are lifestyle-related, such as smoking, diabetes or high blood pressure. Others are based in our biology.

My research group is studying babies with Down syndrome – a genetic disease that causes delayed physical growth – to find out more about the changes that occur in the brain during the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Babies’ brains can, it turns out, tell us quite a lot about adult brains.

Those with Down syndrome have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Among those aged between 50 and 59 years, one in three suffer from dementia (the most common form of which is Alzheimer’s disease), if they also have Down syndrome. That proportion rises to one in two for those over 60 year of age.

The increased risk may have something to do with why Down syndrome occurs. Every one has two copies of 23 chromosomes, which make up all the genetic information in any human cell. Those with Down syndrome have three copies of chromosome 21, and the genetic code in this chromosome produces a protein, called amyloid-beta precursor protein (APP), which is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.

By the age of 30 the brains of all individuals with Down syndrome show a high number of “plaques”, formed from a group of mangled APP molecules. Unlike in the general population, this process has been shown to start in infancy in those with Down syndrome.

What is interesting, however, is that, while all individuals with Down syndrome will ultimately develop the typical Alzheimer’s brain pathology, not all of them get the disease in adulthood. Something is protecting some of them from developing dementia.

To find out what that protecting factor is, we need to study people with Down syndrome across all ages and understand the environmental, genetic and biological factors that affect them. We have now started working on doing that by first creating Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease in mice. The results from this will help us shape how we study infants and adults.

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We have recruited children between six months and five years of age. We will perform behavioral assessments through observation of the child with their parent or caregiver. For instance, some of these will involve eye tracking and assessments of memory and attention while the infant watches videos on a screen.

The hope is that, by identifying risk factors for dementia during very early development, we may be able to help target preventative treatments for individuals with Down syndrome and subsequently the general population. It may lead to treatments that could slow down the cognitive decline seen in Alzheimer’s disease.


CJD Takes Young Woman In South Dakota

Food Not Our Only Concern

As many are aware, Lisa Johnson began having some health problems over the last month and a half. She was supposed to work at Post Prom on April 12, but felt a little dizzy and nauseous so she went home instead.

Lisa Johnson and CJD

Feeling no better on Monday, she decided a trip to the doctor was in order. Several tries on antibiotics led to more tests. What doctors initially thought was an inner ear and sinus infection actually turned out to be Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. CJD is a very rare and fatal brain disorder, which is a close relative of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy — commonly known as Mad Cow Disease (as an editorial note,it’s highly infectious).

There are three kinds of CJD: hereditary, sporadic and variant. The variant kind is related to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (as an editorial note, this is all bullshit–prion disease is prion disease and prions are being mismanaged around the world. The food supply is not our only concern and food suppliers are skewing and suppressing a much broader conversation).

Johnson’s case was diagnosed at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., as Sporadic CJD with no known cause. CJD causes a protein in the brain to fold and mutate, destroying brain tissue. Doctors don’t know the cause of the protein mutation.

Several doctor visits, tests, and a hospital stay in Sioux Falls led to the trip to Mayo Clinic in Rochester for a full diagnosis. At this time, the doctors also gave the heart-wrenching news that there is no cure for CJD.

The family was told that Johnson’s case was very aggressive, as they compared the three MRIs she had taken within a two week span.

“It was hard to believe that ‘Mama Johnson’ was dealt something she couldn’t fight her way out of,” said her sister, Janelle Bischoff of Huron. “She always told the kids you can do it. Give it the best you can. And she always gave everything 150 percent if she was involved in it.”

Since there is no cure for the disease, time was spent keeping Johnson as comfortable as possible. As the disease progressed, she was admitted to Huron Regional Medical Center to control hallucinations and mood swings, after which she once again returned home. Johnson passed away at home on June 3, at the age of 49.

“Lisa will be remembered for her laugh, loyalty and deep love for her family,” Bischoff said. “The friendships she built through the livestock industry, 4-H events, the kids she cheered for at Huron sporting events, the kids she mentored in Confirmation, and the family members she wrapped with love will always be lucky because they were touched by her ferocious spirit.”

Her family includes her husband Gary, and children, Jeremiah, a senior at Huron High School, and Courtney, who will be a junior at SDSU this fall. Source:

CJD transmissible

Alzheimer’s Epidemic Worse Than Statistics Indicate

Caregivers Often Overwhelmed By Demands, Costs

Sara Schupp hasn’t seen her mother in a while. She hopes to someday soon, but for now, it’s the difference between crying on the way to work every day for a week and functioning like a normal 34-year-old. Her mother, Bernadette LandiVittori, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2001. The family decided to move her to the Morton Terrace Care Center in January 2013. Schupp visited many times at first, but a little more than a year later, it’s been too much for her to take.

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Her mother weighs 100 pounds. She doesn’t know who her daughter is, even when they are in the same room. Thirty-four years of Schupp’s life have vanished from her mother’s memory.

“I want to be that courageous person. I want to be that person who goes to see her, and I have a lot of guilt because of it,” Schupp said. “I cannot physically bring myself to drive there right now. I’m hoping that will change, and I’ll be that strong person. But right now, I can’t do it.”

Schupp’s experience with the disease was unusual in that her mother was diagnosed at age 54, when her daughter was just a senior in college. However, according to a report released in March by the Alzheimer’s Association national office, her experience may become more common as increasing numbers of seniors are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and there is currently still no cure.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth-deadliest disease in the United States, but even that’s a naive statistic, said central Illinois Alzheimer’s Association Executive Director Nikki Vulgaris-Rodriguez. It’s more likely the third-deadliest disease nationally when causes of death, like pneumonia, are viewed as the results of Alzheimer’s degenerative nature, she said.

For women age 65 and older, the numbers are more alarming as two-thirds of the cases are women. One in six women in their 60s is likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, according to the report.

The financial toll of the disease is also burdening the nation, the report states. It estimates that Alzheimer’s will cost Medicare and Medicaid a combined $150 billion in 2014 for the 5 million Americans living with the disease. The Association predicts that once the Baby Boomer generation reaches the age of greatest risk for dementia in the coming decade, an astronomical rise in these numbers will occur.

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Alzheimer’s advocacy groups say they want to impart on the public and politicians that the disease costs billions of dollars and is underfunded by the U.S. government when compared to HIV/AIDS, cancer and heart disease.

“We have a very active advocacy program for both the federal and state levels,” Vulgaris-Rodriguez said. “We’re constantly out there with our volunteer ambassadors to help be a voice for our population in the Alzheimer’s community.”

Schupp recently stepped into that volunteer ambassador role for the 18th Congressional District in Illinois. She has met with aides of U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock and hopes to meet Schock in person this summer to discuss the increasing need for more funding and better research of Alzheimer’s.

Becoming an advocate was difficult for Schupp after watching her mother lose herself to the disease over the course of nearly 13 years. Fresh off of graduation from Southern Illinois University when her parents informed her of her mother’s diagnosis, Schupp experienced denial and took the approach that everything was normal.

And her caregiving role was minor as her father, Lamonte LandiVittori, assumed daily care for his wife. Schupp was allowed to devote herself to her career and starting her own family while her father cared for her mother.

caregivers Alzheimer's disease

For three weeks in 2010, Schupp stepped into her father’s shoes while he was recovering from heart surgery, taking both parents into her home. She couldn’t believe the stress, strain and emotion of those three weeks.

“I don’t know how my dad did it for so long,” Schupp said. “I think it’s taken an extreme physical and emotional toll on him.”

Lamonte LandiVittori now has stage four colon cancer. Schupp can’t prove it, but she believes the stress of the past decade contributed to his condition.

The struggle with Alzheimer’s greatly affects caregivers, said Vulgaris-Rodriguez, who recommends anyone taking on that role to take advantage of the support groups offered by the local Alzheimer’s Association.

“It does happen,” Vulgaris-Rodriguez said. “Our support programs give the caregiver an understanding of the stress level so they can manage their own stress.”

Looking back from what is now the final chapter in her mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s, Schupp urges those dealing with the disease to seek out those support groups — something she did not do. Those groups might have told her what she knows now 13 years later.

“In that first year, spend as much quality time with that person as possible,” Schupp said.

No such time exists at the end.


Living With Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Managing, Coping With Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms

Many years ago, I worked as a psychologist for the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. Toward the end of my last tour of duty, I visited Ryoanji, the famous Buddhist monastery and meditation rock garden in Kyoto, Japan. Although I found the rock garden cultivated a sense of calm stillness within me, I gained the greatest spiritual insight as I left.

Along the path there was a small sign reading “The Usual Path.” It was meant to direct tourists back to their destination. The sign did not read “The Right Path” or “The Only Path,” just “The Usual Path.”

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Most tourists opted for the usual path. It was safe and predictable, while the unusual path was unfamiliar and filled with challenges. But ultimately both paths led to the same place. That small, unbiased sign in the Buddhist monastery garden has given me inspiration and courage on my alternative path as a person living with Alzheimer’s disease.

When first diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease, it became crystal clear to me that I was no longer on “The Usual Path.” My journey now is unusual, unfamiliar and full of challenges — for both me and my loved ones. When first diagnosed, my life as I knew it, and the plans I had for it, changed. I have no idea how long my memory and cognitive functions will serve me.

My experience coping with Alzheimer’s disease is similar to others who have been diagnosed with this disease. Suddenly, I had to navigate life-insurance policies, trusts, wills, financial and long-term-care planning, early retirement, Social Security disability, state disability insurance, medical directives and compromised health — all at the same time. This journey has been nothing short of overwhelming and confounding.

The longer I am on this journey, the more I have a sense of urgency to live life to the fullest. I am “seizing the moment.” Ironically, I am happier now than I ever have been, mindful of the present moment rather than worrying about the future or brooding about the past. Prior to my Alzheimer’s diagnosis, much of my life was about striving for this or that and not really paying attention to the things I value most — my primary and secondary relationships, spirituality and health.

Being mindful of the present moment is a beneficial way to deal with the daily health and emotional challenges of this disease. The capability to live in the present moment deepens, develops and matures when there is an intention to pay attention. Daily walking (or some sort of exercise) also helps, because it is a deliberate exercise to strengthen body, mind and spirit.

treat Alzheimer's disease

My choice is to be a fighter and not a victim of Alzheimer’s disease. To have the energy to fight a good fight, I need to renew, rekindle and rediscover my inner spirit. And the only way I know to do this is by seizing the moment, cultivating stillness and quiet, avoiding stimuli and distractions and embracing the value and meaning of life. Because of Alzheimer’s, not in spite of it.