It was June 12, 2003 when Sargent Shriver typed a letter to his friends, telling of his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. “I look forward to being in touch with as many of you as possible. If names are slow to come to me, please forgive me. But if at any moment, I seem content with things as they are, don’t leave the room,” he wrote. “Remind me of the great times we’ve had and the great work waiting to be done.”
Plenty of work remains to be done, and his daughter, Maria Shriver is leading the charge.
The journalist, author and First Lady of California says she grieves every time she visits her father, and she says she has fears about whether she will develop Alzheimer’s. She pours herself into award-winning books and television projects about the disease. ”I deal with my fear that way, and a certain amount of denial,” she said during a conference call for bloggers on Oct. 18.
Shriver and Angela Geiger, chief strategy officer at the Alzheimer’s Association, are promoting the release of “The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimers. It gives background on the disease and where we are with our understanding, and includes a variety of essays from famous and regular people, amid all of the grim statistics.
Some 5.3 million Americans have the disease, and by 2050, 16 million will–and those figures don’t include related dementias. While the average annual cost for caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is $57,000, 72 percent of Americans admit they haven’t considered what their care options would be if they were to develop the disease.
America will spend about $6 billion on cancer research and about $4 billion on cardiovascular research in 2011, but just $500 million on Alzheimer’s research. The first wave of Baby Boomers start turning 65 in 2011, and the percentage of our population diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will begin to grow substantially.
“We are facing a tsunami, and we have no national policy for dealing with Alzheimer’s,” Shriver says. “It will be, I believe, in large part up to the Baby Boomer women to push for the advancements with this disease.”
Read my previous post about “The Shriver Report.”
Order your own copy of “The Shriver Report.”