As the population ages, and people live longer, the statistics for Alzheimer’s disease have become even more staggering. Alzheimer’s is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, affecting one in three seniors, and the number of Americans with the disease is projected to triple by 2050–from 5.4 million to nearly 16 million — if no cure is found by then. The non-profit advocacy organization UsAgainstAlzheimer’s is working to stop the disease by 2020 through fundraising and spreading awareness via events like staged readings of the play “Surviving Grace,” written by Trish Vradenburg, whose mother died of Alzheimer’s in 1992.
Vradenburg, who founded UsAgainstAlzheimers with her husband George, wrote the play ten years ago based on her experience as a caregiver for her mother, and has seen it produced at the Kennedy Center, off-Broadway, and in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It’s sad, funny, affecting and will ring true to anyone who knows someone — and that’s most of us — with this degenerative disease.
In L.A., a star-studded cast headed by Marilu Henner as TV writer Kate Griswald and Carol Burnett as her mother, Grace, and featuring Elliott Gould, , Lou Gossett, Jr., Loni Anderson, Helen Reddy and Brian McNamara, gave one of several planned stage reading performances (including Raleigh, North Carolina March and Phoenix and Dallas TBA).
As one of a dozen documented people in the world with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, Henner never forgets anything, and she’s participating in research that might one day help people with dementia and memory loss to remember the details of their lives. “We’re doing ongoing memory testing to help figure out the pathways, where the sensitive areas in the brain are for memory. They’ve taken 300 measurements of my brain and the brains of the others [with HSAS] and they’ve found nine areas in our brains that are ten times bigger than in a normal brain,” she says.
Actress and author Henner has added radio host to her resume, now hosting a daily radio show about “life through the prism of health,” airing 9 a.m.-noon PT daily.