Apr 062012
 
A Night At Sardi's

Last month, close to 1,000 Hollywood luminaries came together to raise fun and funds for Alzheimer’s at the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual A Night At Sardi’s.  During the last 20 years, A Night At Sardi’s has generated more than $20 million to support important research, develop programs to support family caregivers, and create campaigns to bring awareness to this disease.

This year, I was on the “purple carpet” in Beverly Hills to interview celebrities attending the 20th Anniversary of the gala event.  They shared how Alzheimer’s has affected their life—and why they come together to raise awareness and funds to find an end to Alzheimer’s each year.

On the Purple Carpet

David Hyde Pierce was the host for this year’s event.  An Emmy-winner (Frasier) and Tony Award winning actor (Curtains), David has been a longtime advocate and champion for the fight against Alzheimer’s disease which affected both his father and his grandfather.  As he told me, “Losing a father and grandfather to Alzheimer’s was twice too much for my family.”  Watching the impact that the disease had on both his mother and grandmother – the caregivers to his dad and grandfather respectively – gave David a profound respect for the plight of the family caregiver.

David has testified before Congress to support the passage of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act which was signed into law by President Obama with plans to fund $50 million for Alzheimer’s research and provide another $130 million to include caregiver support and education over the next two years.  This is a great first step in a movement that needs to keep moving and David is helping to lead the cause with his support for a disease he calls “an epidemic in this country.”

I asked him about how caregivers can keep their spirits up even in the face of such a devastating disease.  As someone who brought his urbane wit to the indelible Dr. Niles Crane on Frasier, David replied, “Anyone who has dealt with Alzheimer’s knows how important it is to have a sense of humor and to be able to maintain one, it is what gets you through the day.”

Jane Seymour, star of the big and small screens (Somewhere in Time, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman) joined her husband, TV and movie producer James Keach (Walk the Line) to walk the purple carpet for family and friends impacted by Alzheimer’s disease.  Jane’s aunt was caregiver to her uncle with Alzheimer’s for many years and both Jane and James are producing a documentary on country music legend Glen Campbell as he battles the stages of Alzheimer’s during this farewell music tour.

Jane told me, “For the caregivers, that is the hardest job of all…when someone has Alzheimer’s you forget that the caregiver has to be there 24/7 . . . and in many cases it is detrimental to the health of the caregiver.”

James told me that being on the road with the Campbells while filming the documentary really hit home for him on how difficult Alzheimer’s is on the family – especially the primary caregiver such as Campbell’s wife, Kim.  But, having his family surround him on tour helps Campbell maintain a sense of balance in a world that is progressively out of balance.

Peter Gallagher, TV (Covert Affairs, The O.C.) and film star (Burlesque, American Beauty) as well as recording artist (7 Days in Memphis) has felt the full impact of Alzheimer’s on his family as he was caregiver to his mother who lived with the disease for 20 years.  In fact, Peter was one of the original stars who joined other celebrities at the very first A Night At Sardi’s event 20 years ago.

Peter told me an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be as devastating to the caregiver as to the person diagnosed, “Doing it yourself, I don’t know how long you are going to last . . . [but] the more you understand about the disease the better.”  He said that this disease can be “embarrassing” and “terrifying” but that is why the Alzheimer’s Association is a great place to start to find the help and support needed.

Joey McIntyre, as the youngest member of the 80s boy band phenomenon New Kids on the Block, Joey is also the youngest of nine growing up in Needham, Massachusetts.  His mother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Joey told me, “It’s a process and it’s different for everybody . . . it is bittersweet because with my mom, she is still there, she’s got the one liners and she is so funny and she is still a performer but she doesn’t remember five minutes ago . . . it’s tough for the families.”  While Joey said that some of his other siblings provide the primary care to his mom, his role is to get the word out – using his fame to bring attention to Alzheimer’s and helping to find a cure.

Marilu Henner remembered for her starring role on TV’s Taxi, is currently guest starring on a new TV program based in part on her real life gift of hyperthymesia, which is superior autobiographical memory skillsAs seen on 60 Minutes, Marilu can essentially recall tiny details of things that happened on any date in time during her life.  Ask her what happened on November 1, 1976 and she can tell you.  She serves as a consultant on the CBS series, Unforgettable, which stars Poppy Montgomery as Detective Carrie Wells with the same memory skills as Marilu.  The program received the Alzheimer’s Association Abe Burrows Entertainment Award for the inclusion of an Alzheimer’s story arc that raises concern and awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and is a reminder of how prevalent Alzheimer’s disease is in our everyday lives.

When it comes to caregiving, Marilu told me, “The caregivers have to take care of themselves, sometimes the patient looks better than the caregiver . . . they have to be able to take time for themselves [because] they are on their reserve tank most of the time . . . you have to set up your environment to win for both of you.”  Her latest book, Total Memory Makeover, helps those hoping to keep their brain in as good a shape as their bodies.

Lamorne Morris, TV host and actor (New Girl) is one of the young crop of stars who believe shedding light on Alzheimer’s disease is important to everyone.  While he is not touched by the disease in his family, he has many friends who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s. I asked Lamorne about the importance of younger generations in the fight against Alzheimer’s.  He told me, “This is the age of social media and so the younger kids are checking for their favorite people on Twitter and on Facebook . . . someone on Twitter who has a million followers, if you send out a Tweet about the cause, that is a lot more people who are aware of it and I think it is very important that more and more younger people get involved.”

The event also honored Susan Disney Lord with the Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver of the Year Award. She was a caregiver for her mother, Patricia Disney who recently died from Alzheimer’s at the age of 77. Disney Lord is a philanthropist, advocate, and active member of the Alzheimer’s Association California Southland Chapter Board of Directors and a member of the family who has helped to make the world “a happier place.”  Her hope is that we can create a world where Alzheimer’s no longer exists.

That wish is one that would make Susan and the many other attendees gathered for A Night At Sardi’s very happy indeed.

About Blog Author Sherri Snelling

Sherri Snelling, CEO and founder of the Caregiving Club, is a nationally recognized expert on America’s 65 million family caregivers with special emphasis on how to help caregivers balance “self care” while caring for a loved one. She is the former chairman of the National Alliance for Caregiving and is currently writing a book about celebrities who have been caregivers.

  14 Responses to “A Night to Remember: Alzheimer’s Takes Center Stage at A Night at Sardi’s”

  1. I am a caregiver for my father in Louisville, Ky. I have been for 10 months now.It would

    Be great if the celebrities could your around the

    Country to speak to caregivers of alzheimer’s patients,motivating and just caregivers a night of entertainment . Just saying this would be great idea.

  2. Having had a Grandfather and my Mother suffer through this awful illness, and the past few years of doing the Walk to End Alzheimer's in Billings, MT….I am glad that there is now fund raising going on with national awareness, Two thumbs up. We need to wipe out this horrific disease. Thank-you for spreading the word.

  3. My grandmother passed 14 years ago from dementia, and now my mother has Alzheimers. My mom was diagnosed 8 years ago and is now in the end stages. My step sis Val is her caregiver during the day, and me at night and weekends. My mom is on Hospice and they have been so good to us. This disease has taken its toll not only on my mom, but my dad and entire family. I have a great support system starting with my hubby and son, and many friends, and co-workers. I also donate a percentage of my paycheck to the Northeastern Alzheimers Association. This is an awful disease with an awful name. Through prayer and research let's all hope to knock out this disease, or make living with it easier on the patient, family, friends and caregivers.

  4. How great to read about these famous people lending their support to this cause.My Mother was afflicted for 7 years.was unable to walk or talk for her last 3 years of life.I am a hospice nurse and relive her journey with evryb patient and family I care for.End stage Alzheimers disease is quickly becoming the diagnosis most seen in end of life care.We MUST get he word out.It's everyone's responsibility.

  5. I'm caregiver for my younger brother who was recently diagnosed with alzheimers and has down syndrome. People with down syndrome have a very high rate of getting alzheimers. Thank you to everyone that works to spread the word of this devastating evil disease.

  6. After watching my grandfather die of this horrific disease, I thought I could never bear losing another loved one to it….4 terribly long years. Within about twelve years my mother was diagnosed with it…7 long years. Being brought up a Christian, some things, when it could not be explained, I was always told by my mother "Everything happens for a reason, it may not be made known to us -in our generation…and no, we don't always understand it, but there's a reason for everything." My grandfather and my mother were the two best Christians I have ever had the privilege of meeting in my 52 years, the literally lived their religion. I sure don't understand it, but I pray they find a cure for this, terrible, debilitating, humiliating, long disease. They got it right when they started calling it "The Long Good-Bye" . It is. I don't understand this.

  7. 2 grandmothers,my mother,aunt and an uncle…every morning i wake up wondering if i can remember what happened yesterday…lets find a cause and cure so generations coming on will not have this worry!!!

  8. My Dad died from this terrible disease back in 2004! It effects the family on so many levels!

    I am so touched by all of you walking the Purple carpet for A.D. I just wish their were more attention given to this disease like their is for other diseases. I am not saying those other disease are not bad,but for some reason the general public doesn't really understand how horrific this is for the patient and their families. I am glad to hear about the "new hope" with the blood transfusions(Gammoglobin Infusions). I hope this will help those with Alzheimer's Disease!!!

  9. For the past two years,I have worked hard to change the current law in New Jersey with respect to reporting abuse of the institutionalized elderly. My Bill S (1502) and A (392) is on a public page on Face Book as Peggy's Law S(1502) & A (392). Should you be so inclined, please e-mail Senator Vitale at senvitale@njleg.org and Assemblyman Conaway, MD at asmconaway@njleg.org to strongly request they post Peggy's Law on the agenda for a May 2012 vote of the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committees. Remember ABUSE is ABUSE and all citizens deserve equal protection under the law,especiallly those most vulnerable,our elderly with Alzheimer's Disease.

  10. A VERY CLOSE FRIEND OF MINE PASSED AT 88 WITH ALZHEIMERS. SEVERAL YEARS LATER I REALIZED GOD REASONING FOR US MEETING; IT WAS FOR ME TO KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT, MY DADDY WAS DIAGNOSED WITH ALZHEIMERS AND PASSED 5 YEARS LATER . IT IS THE MOST TERRIBLE DISEASE THERE IS I BELIEVE. THE PERSON IS JUST EXISTING NOT LIVING! MY MOTHER WAS THE MAJOR CAREGIVER AND I HELPED TOO. ALZHEIMERS HURTS THE FAMILY IN SO MANY WAYS. TO SEE MY DADDY GO FROM A SUCCESSFUL MEAT SALESMAN AND SPORTS FAN-THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA FOOTBALL AND BASEBALL TO NOT HAVING A MEMORY IS THE WORSE WAY TO DIE. THE ONES THAT ARE HURT THE MOST ARE THE FAMILIES!! WE HAVE GOT TO FIND A CURE FOR THIS DISEASE!!

  11. my mom is in a nursing home right with alzheimers and well it was tough at home at times and well the only thing i can say do the best you can

  12. I am 77 yrs old and a caretaker for my 83 yr. old husband. It is such a terrible disease and I find there are many surprises along the way. One can never depend on today being the same as yesterday. Their moods are fast changing and you need to keep one step ahead of them at all times. (which is impossible at times). I can remember Nancy Reagan saying that one of the worst things is one cannot enjoy the remembering of things they did together. No reminiscing. My husband was finally diagnosed less than 2 yrs ago however when I look back I know he was getting it at least 5 yrs. before that. I pray they find a cure for it very soon . In the meantime I am still happy I have him with me but to people who don't have any one with it please still study up about it. Perhaps you could help a friend or neighbor who is burdened with it. Hats off to all the people who walk and run to raise money for Alz.

  13. My husband of 43 yrs. dz @63. devastating, shock, disbelief trying to cope one day at a time
    try to stay hopeful! Pray with God all things are possible! God is in control! Pray that I can
    Care for him. We have survived cancer (me) stints in heart & brain hemorage. This is sooooo
    Much harder!!!!!!!

  14. I lost my mother to Alzheimers in April of this year. She lived in our home the last 19 months of her life. It is so hard to see your mother disappear before your eyes. I am now working for the Alzheimers Association as a development manager. We have our major fund raiser October 20 in San Luis Obispo. Come visit our beautiful city and Walk To End ALzheimers. For information <a href="http://www.alz.org/walk” target=”_blank”>www.alz.org/walk.

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