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'This Is Us' increases awareness, conversation, around Alzheimer’s

The show, which will air its final episode Tuesday night, shows how Alzheimer’s impacts the family at the center of the series.

MAYFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — Rosetta Moore flips through photo albums with a smile on her face, fondly leafing through memories with her family and loved ones over the years.

“This is my favorite picture, when he was in the military,” she said, pointing to the image of a young man in uniform.

That young man is her husband, Booker, who served in Korea. Together, they’ve created a family – children and grandchildren stare back from the pages of the photo albums spread out across the couch in her Mayfield Heights home.

But she and Booker, better than most, understand the power of holding on to these memories.

“It hurts. Because I don’t know what day he’ll wake up and say 'where is my wife?' Or 'who are you?' And I’m trying to explain it,” Rosetta said.

Fifteen years ago, Rosetta said her husband started exhibiting different behavior, like getting angry or trying to pick fights with people in neighboring cars when they were on the road. Knowing this was unusual behavior for her husband, the Moores went to the doctor, where they learned Booker had Alzheimer’s.

“It’s hard. It’s really hard,” she said. “Then you’re dealing– mentally, you’re also dealing with the fact that their mind is not what it used to be. This not the man I married 45 years ago, he’s reverting back to this child.”

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Moore said being a caregiver can be physically and mentally exhausting. For example, she said she will sometimes go several days in a row without sleep because she knows that Booker is getting up through the night. She also recounted a recent instance when at a store, Booker mistook a woman shopping for his late mother, and, according to Moore, chased after the woman.

“People just don’t understand how hard it is to be a caregiver,” she said. “They say, ‘oh, it’s easy.’ But when you’re dealing with it 24/7, it’s nerve-wracking sometimes. It’s a joy for you to do that because that’s somebody you love, but it’s still hard.”

For Moore, the Alzheimer’s Association has been helpful connecting her with groups and resources to learn more about the disease and receive support. Moore now volunteers with the association.

“It doesn’t discriminate, so any individual can get a diagnosis at any time. We’re seeing individuals as young as in their 30s to as old as in their 80s or 90s,” said Lindsay Walker, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Walker emphasized that families navigating Alzheimer’s are not alone, and that the association is there to help.

“Are we getting closer to getting cures? Absolutely. But what happens is there [are] right now 50,000 individuals in the Cleveland area that have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. That’s individuals that are 65 and older and definitely do have that diagnosis of Alzheimer’s,” Walker said. “We know that for every individual that actually has a diagnosis, it’s about three individuals that are there to help take care of them, so that’s 150,000 individuals that are out there that are caretaking for an individual. So this is definitely an all hands on deck disease.”

Walker said NBC’s show “This Is Us” has helped facilitate conversation about the disease. The series finale airs Tuesday, May 23. 

“I definitely think it has helped, because what I’m finding is that people are talking about it, and awareness is out there,” Walker said. “People are nervous to talk about it. They feel shameful about it. And so it is so nice that the show took a stance and wanted to talk about it and show the impact of all that had happened to individuals throughout the show.”

Walker said in the case of “This Is Us,” Mandy Moore’s character, Rebecca Pearson, received an early diagnosis. It’s something Walker said can help those with Alzheimer’s take control of their care and situation.

“One thing that I think that was really brave that Rebecca did was she had an early diagnosis, she sat down with her family and friends, and she really was very clear of what she wanted to have happen, and her family was able to make that happen.”

For more information on resources available for individuals and families navigating Alzheimer’s, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website, or email walker directly at lgwalker@alz.org

Editor's Note: The video above is from an unrelated story posted on May 23, 2022.

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