Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 5 million people in the U.S. alone, and may soon become the world’s greatest epidemic. It’s not surprising that many have been touched by it in one way or another. Either a loved one has been diagnosed with the disease, or we know someone who is struggling with it. And with more than seventy-six million boomers, a whole generation is worried that today’s memory lapses will become tomorrow’s Alzheimer’s and all that the diagnosis entails.
Barbara’s dad has Alzheimer’s. It’s been a long journey fraught with heartache. Those who have only known Mike since his diagnosis can’t imagine how he used to be — whip smart, kind, generous, and best advice giver ever — not the shadow of the man he has become. Alzheimer’s is a disease that knows no boundaries and doesn’t discriminate. It impacts all races, religions, genders, socio-economic groups, and with the rise of early onset Alzheimer’s, age.
While much has been documented regarding the impact of Alzheimer’s, we believe there are other important and overlooked perspectives that can provide a more realistic and complete picture. Our vignettes focus on the person afflicted — who they were before they became ill — and the toll this disease has taken on the person left to pick up the pieces and forge ahead. They too are “Beyond the Face of Alzheimer’s.”
While the series highlights the difficulties of dealing with a loved one afflicted with the disease, the story is not complete without exploring the “nuggets of goodness” — the unexpected that happens while navigating this painful road. This eight-part series is an intimate portrait of Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Dr. Jason Karlawish, a professor of Medicine, Medical Ethics, and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, and producer of Making Sense of Alzheimer’s, served as medical a consultant and a contributor to the series. His commentary can be heard in the introduction and conclusion of the series.
We begin on the third floor of an Alzheimer’s facility in the Washington DC area. This is the home of Barb’s dad, Mike, who has inspired us in so many ways to share this important story.
Faye Hall’s mother left notes for the trespassers stealing her food and moving her possessions, forgetting that these were her own actions. The artist used the notes as inspiration and as a medium in a portrait of her mother.
Greg Dunn spent years studying the human brain, only to spend countless additional hours trying to depict it in his art. Yet the neuroscientist-turned-artist says he is humbled by how much more complex the brain is than he could ever hope to show.