Movie 'Still Alice' hits home for one Seattle author

Jean Enersen reports.

"She would have these moments of blankness in front of the classroom and that really scared her."

Seattle filmmaker and author Ann Hedreen isn't talking about Julianne Moore's character in "Still Alice," but about her own mother, Arlene.

"She was only in her 50's and still teaching high school English. Alzheimer's disease didn't even occur to us then."

Even before she saw the movie, Ann was familiar with Lisa Genova's best seller of the same name.

"When I read Still Alice, I had this sort of chill, this feeling that –wow, you know, someone has done it, someone has gotten inside the head of someone with Alzheimer's disease."

Ann certainly knows what it's like to watch a loved one disappear into this devastating disease.

"Sometimes people would say things to me —I'm not kidding about this—like maybe your mom just needs to try harder as if you could somehow overcome Alzheimer's disease, which you can't."

Arlene died in 2006 after battling Alzheimer's for almost two decades.

To help build awareness, Ann and her husband Rus made a documentary, called "Quick Brown Fox: An Alzheimer's Story." Then last autumn, Ann published a memoir called "Her Beautiful Brain."

While the stigma hasn't changed much since her mother was first diagnosed, the silence about the disease is starting to lift.

"I feel like we're at a point where we were, perhaps a generation ago, with cancer, where people are finally beginning to talk about it," said Ann.

Talk is good. Research is better, which is why Ann decided to volunteer for clinical trials because there was so little she could do to help her mother. Does Ann still fear the disease? Not as much as she used to.

"Even though her onset was fairly young, we do not have than familial gene pattern where huge numbers if every generation get Alzheimer's disease. She was a bit of an outlier. So I take a little bit of comfort in that, but I also very seriously take my brain health and do what I can, which is mainly get lots of exercise."

According to the Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's is now the most expensive condition in the nation. By 2050, cases are expected to triple.

The association hopes more awareness will mean more money for research and one day, a cure.


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