Photo by Chris Shaffner
On May 14, the Alzheimer’s Association hosted its annual Purple Gala at the Depot in Minneapolis. More than 800 people gathered to celebrate and honor the lives of people impacted by Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Proceeds from the event raise awareness and support funds for Alzheimer’s care, support, and research.
Terry Sandvold: My mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s disease for 20 years—she was diagnosed in 1990. Back then, nobody wanted to be known as having Alzheimer’s. Now it’s more of an open challenge to try to defeat Alzheimer’s. Having that attitude is really making a difference.
Emily McNamara: My dad, Pinky McNamara, had Alzheimer’s disease for 10 years. He passed away five years ago. I was a primary caregiver. I’ve never seen a disease that has every single emotion wrapped into one. You’re embarrassed, you’re humiliated, you’re upset, you’re so sad, and you have moments of laughter. We need to get rid of the embarrassment and the humiliation because those are unique to our disease.
Breanna Olson: My mom has been living with Alzheimer’s disease for nine years. It has changed my life. I was living on the East Coast when she was first diagnosed and was working really hard in my career. When my mom’s disease started to progress, I decided to make the move home to Minneapolis. Last year, my father, who was her caregiver, suddenly passed away, so my sister and I were flung into the role of being primary caregivers. Now caring for my mom and loving her is what my life revolves around.
Grace Nutting: My grandpa has early onset Alzheimer’s. He’s only 67. It started off with him forgetting his keys or getting lost. Now he’s very gone. It was quick. My advice would be to try to remember the person as they were before, and remember all of the good times. Don’t dwell on the fact that they don’t remember. They’re still in there, and they still love you.
Ron Petersen: I direct the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the Mayo Clinic. On the diagnostic side, we’re very good at making the diagnosis earlier and earlier. On the treatment side, we have several major drugs under investigation right now. Hopefully we’ll get some readouts on those studies later this year or early next year. The primary goal of most of our work at Mayo and nationwide is to try to prevent the disease before the damage happens in the brain.