I’m looking through my late father’s old photos this weekend, and I came across this one of him in Germany, where he served in the US Army during WWII. He appears to be wearing an MP armband. I don’t recall him ever telling me he worked as an MP. There are so many things he never told me about his life, and I’m sad that now I’ll never know, except through his old photos and documents. All the memories he could have shared with me were stolen from him long before he died.
He had Alzheimer’s Disease.
I watch many of my friends now struggling to care for aging parents with Alzheimer’s. I look at the emotional and economic devastation it has wrought on families and on our country as a whole. Over 5 million Americans are now afflicted with Alzheimer’s and by 2025, that number will probably grow to 7 million. By 2050, unless we find a cure, we will be spending over a trillion dollars caring for these patients. This is a disaster rolling toward us, yet our country doesn’t seem mobilized to fight an enemy that at this very moment is killing our loved ones, and is poised to take down my generation next.
As a doctor, I’ve watched how medical science has made enormous improvements in our lives over the last decades. Peptic ulcers, once treated with major surgery, are now cured with a simple course of antibiotics. Timely interventional medicine can now prevent strokes and heart attacks. Medical science has made great strides just during my career, and there’s no reason researchers can’t find a cure for Alzheimer’s. We just need the determination — and the funds — to support our scientists.
That’s why I launched my War on Alzheimer’s a few years ago. I urged my readers to donate to the Scripps Research Institute, internationally known for its biomedical research. Donations would go directly to their Alzheimer’s scientists. To encourage donations, I offered the chance at two grand prizes: the chance to name a character in my next Rizzoli & Isles novel. As little as $5 would enter you into a random drawing to see your name — or the name of a loved one — as a character in my book. I promised to personally match up to $25,000. We raised over $50,000. And the two winning names were characters who worked with Jane and Maura to catch a killer in DIE AGAIN.
The War on Alzheimer’s is an ongoing one, and it’s not over until we find a cure. So I’m doing another fundraiser with my next Rizzoli & Isles book. If someone you love suffers from Alzheimer’s, then you know how high the stakes are. Please join me by spreading the word, and by donating to this vital research. As little as $5 will give you a chance to name a character who might help solve a case — or be a killer!
To donate, visit my GoFundMe page. Let’s fight this war — and win it together.
And if you’re on Twitter, tweet a photo of a loved one before he or she came down with Alzheimer’s. Let’s not forget who they were before. (#BeforeAlzheimers)