Alzheimer's Disease Takes Center Stage

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), February 6, 2004 | Go to article overview

Alzheimer's Disease Takes Center Stage


Byline: Tim Christie The Register-Guard

Sadie is worried about her husband, Albert. He's forgetful, befuddled, irritable. He forgot where he put his toothbrush, stuck a flower pot in the freezer and barked at his wife for no good reason.

Albert and Sadie are fictional characters in "Spotlight on Alzheimer's Disease," a monthly series of dramatic vignettes and videos on the disease presented by the local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, beginning next week.

"It's something I've wanted to do for years," said Frank Hales, director of the Alzheimer's Association office in Eugene.

The group has presented monthly education programs for some 20 years, with speakers giving talks and answering questions.

"But we wanted to give caregivers a hands-on experience of caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease," he said.

Hales obtained a grant from the Chambers Family Foundation to underwrite the program and then called Karen Scheeland, president of the Very Little Theatre, to see if she could help with production. She recruited actors Sharon Wetterling to play Sadie and Stephen Speidel to play Albert. Donna Peterson, a gerontologist, wrote the script.

Alzheimer's is a progressive, irreversible neurological disorder that afflicts up to 4.5 million Americans, most over age 65, including 90,000 Oregonians, 6,000 in Lane County.

The disease destroys brain cells, causing gradual memory loss, impaired judgment, disorientation, personality change and loss of language skills.

Alzheimer's is sometimes called a disease with two victims, because it takes a heavy toll on spouses and family members who struggle to care for loved ones who are literally losing their minds.

The vignettes help dramatize what caregivers and people with Alzheimer's go through. The first program portrays the early signs of Alzheimer's.

In a series of short scenes, Albert becomes increasingly confused. …

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