Alzheimer’s ‘“ A Personal Story of Loss and Hope
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America estimates as many as 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. And that number will only increase as the population ages and the number of people 65 and older more than doubles in the years between 2010 and 2050.
This disease that robs people of their past, their relationships and eventually most, if not all, cognitive function is not only devastating, but also costly. The direct tab for the disease in the U.S. is around $200 billion for 2012.
But facts and figures alone, as alarming as they are, do not motivate Suzanne Hilton and her husband, Steve, chairman and CEO of Meritage Homes, to serve on the board of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute. For them, the disease hits much closer to home. Suzanne’s mother, Ann Bey, age 77, is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s.
Bey, a former high school and community college English teacher, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 62, just one year after she retired. The woman who was a prolific reader and whose three children affectionately thought of as the family’s grammar patrol can no longer put words together to express an idea. She has progressed through the levels of care at the facility in which she lives, from the early stages of the disease, when she had guarded freedom to roam the residence, to the total health-care unit in which she now lives. She rarely opens her eyes. And if she opens them, she sees only strangers. Bey no longer recognizes her family and friends.
Suzanne supports the research that she says will ultimately bring treatment, not a cure, in the best way she knows how – speaking out and fundraising to support the Alzheimer’s research at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute. She is also a founding member of the Banner Alzheimer’s Foundation Women’s Council.
Nationally, the target for developing a drug to treat patients with an early diagnosis is 2020, and the research is progressing, she says. Among the efforts to unlock the mystery to this disease is the $100 million study of an extended clan of 5,000 people who live in Medellín, Columbia. Led by Dr. Eric M. Reiman, executive director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, the study will last five years, and scientists are hopeful it will yield answers that so far have eluded them.
Suzanne worries that 2020 isn’t soon enough. “I worry about my kids more than about myself. I don’t want them to go through what we’ve gone through with my mom.“
Harrison, 7, and Sophie, 11
At ages 7 and 11, the Hilton’s younger children, Harrison and Sophie, really don’t remember their grandmother as she used to be, robbing them of precious hours and memories – and robbing their grandmother of the joy of watching her grandchildren grow.
Join the fight
An easy step to participating in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease is to add your name to the Alzheimer’s Registry of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative, an international collaboration to find prevention treatments as soon as possible.
And on Oct. 20, the Women’s Council of the Banner Alzheimer’s Foundation will host its annual Night to Remember. The cocktail event will be held at the Musical Instrument Museum, where guests will enjoy hors d’oeuvres prepared to please the palate while meeting scientific criteria for brain health. Proceeds from the evening will stay in Arizona to benefit the programs of the Banner Alzheimer’s Foundation.
Text by Cindy Miller