Alzheimer's disease has touched many lives: an estimated 5.1 million adults in the United States has the neurological disease, according to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA). As the disease progresses, patients have impaired cognitive skills, and require help to perform basic daily activities in the late stage of the disease. To bring awareness to this devastating disease, the AFA is hosting the “Together for Care” telethon on December 4th, which will broadcast on NBC's 16 major markets and on the AFA's website. Hector Elizondo, the honorary celebrity chairman of the AFA, opens up to EmpowHER about his personal connection to Alzheimer's disease, and he and Eric J. Hall, the founding president and the CEO of the AFA, discuss “Together in Care.”
Your mother suffered from Alzheimer's disease. What did that experience teach you about Alzheimer's disease and how has that shaped your advocacy for Alzheimer's disease awareness?
Hector: When my mother, as well as her four sisters, had Alzheimer’s disease, we were truly in the dark ages. No one spoke about the disease. There weren’t support services available like there are today. We really were alone—and we were overwhelmed. That experience taught me that you have to face a disease like this head-on. Having lived through the devastation with my mother and my father as a caregiver, I am doing my all to urge others to get assistance. People need to know everything they can about this disease so they can understand what to expect as it progresses. They need to find out about all the available resources so they don’t have to face this alone.
What advice could you give to sons and daughters out there who have parents with Alzheimer's disease?
Hector: My advice is pretty simple. Families need to pull together and work together. It’s important to, if you will, share the care and also to reach out to help to national and local resources.
We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.