In May of 2015 we received the official diagnosis. My father, Carlo V, had early onset Alzheimer’s at age 66. My dad, original hero, Mensa mind, entrepreneur; Yes him. The guy with the jokes, world champion rower, coach, pianist and pun extraordinaire, or as my friends like to refer to him, “the man”. Yes, him.
And that’s when my family and I got educated on what this awful ugly disease really is… quickly. I’ll take a page out of The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Bill Lyon’s book and going forward call this thing Al. It disgusts me to use his full name. Here are the facts on Al:
- Al is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, and the only cause among the top 10 without a way to prevent it, cure it or even slow its progression
- Every 66 seconds someone in the US develops the disease
- Since 2000 deaths from heart disease have decreased 14% while deaths from Al have increased 89%
- With no effective prevention or treatment methods, Al has the power to bankrupt families, communities and our health care system
It’s not good. And future prospects are looking worse.
- More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, this number could be as high as 16 million, or almost 20% of the 65 and older population
Now in the spring of 2019, I have moved back to Philadelphia and get to hang with my dad on the regular. He’s a bit quieter these days but continues to charm everyone he meets. And Carlo’s piano skills are still extraordinary.
Al has helped me recognize the true hero that my mother is, and has always been. He has helped me appreciate my amazing brothers, because we're all in this together, and I don't know that we could do it alone. The real suffering in this disease doesn't just happen to Al's target. It's the family and friends who are left to make sense of it and adjust. Here’s the ironic thing, in a way I feel lucky. I still despise Al, but he has made me very grateful for this time with my father, and helped me appreciate my incredible family even more. The other things I feel are frustrated and powerless, optimistic and determined; it depends on the day.
For every drug trial failure, there are other glimmers of hope. And I know, with enough resources geared toward more research and innovation, we will have a major break through in figuring out exactly what causes Al to rear his ugly head. And what we can do to bash it in.
On April 7th, 2019 we will be hosting the 8th Annual Wine, Women & Shoes event benefitting Alzheimer’s Association. It’s a fun afternoon of fashion and wine for a cause, and all proceeds benefit Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter.
My goal is to let others know the facts about Al and put a face to the disease. If you would like to support the ongoing research of the Alzheimer’s Association, I would be very grateful for your contribution.
Hey Al, we’re coming for ya!