The public only learned after the death of Gene Wilder, the vibrant comic and acting genius, that he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease [“A gene for comedy,” News, Aug. 30]. It’s not unusual to hear that an individual or family has chosen to keep that a secret. This is private and personal information that everyone can choose to share or keep to themselves.
Many do not know that an estimated 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s. And beyond the individual who faces the disease, family members and caregivers are forced to deal with unimaginable stress and heartache.
Today on Long Island, we face an aging population and an ever-worsening crisis in terms of Alzheimer’s care and caregiver support programs.
As we take a moment to pay tribute to a brilliant star of such movies as “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” and “Young Frankenstein,” we should also reflect on the disease he faced and the struggle that his family and friends managed. There are programs and support available for individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s as well as their caregivers. However, more programs and greater access are needed.
Tori Cohen, Port Washington
Editor’s note: The writer is the executive director of the Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation, an advocacy organization.
I’m a caregiver and feel that Alzheimer’s disease is like an orphan disease. It takes a piece of my husband every day of our lives. First it’s his speech. Next his decision-making skills. Now it’s his short-term memory. Eventually only a shell will remain. This will be all that’s left of a man who traveled to China three times a year for business so his family could have a good life.
There are TV fundraisers and ads for everything, including rescuing dogs, but very little is done to raise awareness of this scourge. Sleepless nights for caregivers who can’t escape to care for themselves, who worry about not having the money to get help — or when the time comes, the funds and the strength to place their loved one in a nursing home.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation is one of the few places to turn for a little help. Where are our politicians? Our government?
We need more funding for research and caregiving.
Suzanne Germaine, Massapequa Park