Figure. Maria Shriver touring research lab at UC Irvine with Dr. Carl W. Cotman
According to 2009 data from the Alzheimer's Assocation, one out of eight people age 65 or older has Alzheimer's disease (AD), and an estimated 500,000 Americans under age 65 have AD or another dementia. Most live at home—70 percent, in fact—and are cared for by friends and family. By 2050, the number of Americans living with AD is expected to triple, growing to as many as 16 million.
Considering how many Americans are likely to be living with AD soon, there is no better time than the present to educate people and raise funds for research.
That's where the new, four-part HBO documentary series steps in. The Alzheimer's Project debuted on Sunday, May 10. The first segment, called “The Memory Loss Tapes,” tells the stories of seven individuals with AD—from their point of view—as their dementia progresses. The three other segments in the series are “Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am? with Maria Shriver” (designed for children); “Caregivers”; and “Momentum in Science”—an insightful report of the cutting-edge research advances in understanding, treating, and preventing AD.
If there is any misconception the producers want to address in the documentary, it is to rectify the false belief that there is no hope for AD. “That's just not true,” series producer John Hoffman says. “There is tremendous public anxiety that there's nothing we can do—and that if you have someone in your family affected by Alzheimer's, you are also at great risk. But genetics do not show that. We feel good about bringing this kind of information to the public.”