Famous Women Touched by Alzheimer’s

A Tribute to International Women’s Day (March 8, 2018)

For many of us, caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can sometimes feel very isolating.  You may be reluctant to share your feelings and experiences with co-workers or others in your social circles as they may have difficulty understanding and relating to what you are going through.  Well, you are not alone.

Since an estimated 66% of all caregivers are women [as of February 2015]¹, on International Women’s Day, I’d like the take the opportunity to share with you a list of famous women who have had their lives impacted by Alzheimer’s Disease.  This disease does not discriminate and affects families of all races, religions, cultures, and socio-economic status.

“More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, most over the age of 65. But with the increase in life expectancy, that number is expected to triple to nearly 16 million by 2050” [Alzheimer’s Association²]. It takes courage, patience, time, and a lot of resources to care for a loved one battling Alzheimer’s Disease and it can be very emotional and stressful to watch your loved one succumb to the symptoms of this disease.  I am very grateful that these brave women have shared their experiences publicly, bringing about awareness and advocating for a cure.


Maria Shriver  helped care for her father, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, and has become a champion of Alzheimer’s Caregivers. Her journalism career began with KYW-TV in Philadelphia, PA, but she soon moved up to the National News. The former First Lady of California has been a lifelong advocate for people with intellectual disabilities and co-authored an Alzheimer’s study in 2010 with the Alzheimer’s Association.  She has also recently founded the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement to help raise awareness and funds to figure out why women are disproportionately impacted by this devastating disease.

Leeza Gibbons cared for her mother, Gloria Jean Gibbons, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and passed away in May 2008, at the age of 72. She is an Emmy-winning television personality, who put her career on hold to care for her mother.  As a promise to her mother to “tell her story and make it count”, in 2002 she founded the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foudationdedicated to improving Alzheimer’s care and finding a cure.

Kim Cambell with Husband, Glen Cambell



Kim Cambell cared for her husband, famous country/pop star Glen Cambell, whose diagnosis with Alzheimer’s was made in 2011. In honor of her husband, she made it her mission to improve the quality of life for people with Dementia and their caregivers by co-founding the I’ll Be Me Alzheimer’s Fund. In 2016, she launched CareLivinga lifestyle guide and social movement to support and advocate for caregivers, and to encourage them to care for themselves while caring for others. Glen lost his battle with Alzheimer’s in August 2017.



Marcia Gay Harden  helps take care of her mother, Beverly Bushfield Harden, who has diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 9 year ago.  The Oscar-winning actress is best known for her roles in Law & Order SVU, Mystic River, Angels in America, The NewsroomShe mentioned that before her mother’s diagnosis, she noticed small signs indicating something may be wrong. In an effort to bring about awareness to this issue, she joined forces with the Notes to Remember campaign, a resource to help caregiver better recognize the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s. You can also follow her on Facebook.



Nancy Reagan cared for her husband, former President Ronald Reagan, for 10 years while he struggled with Alzheimer’s and eventually passed away in 2004 at the age of 93.  Nancy Reagan was a Hollywood actress, prior to becoming the first lady of the United States. She was a passionate advocate for Alzheimer’s disease awareness and education with a special emphasis on advancing research. Nancy Reagan was born in New York City and passed away at her home in Los Angeles, CA on March 6, 2016. She was 94.


Kimberly Williams Paisley  “Known for her role as Annie Banks in the 1991 Steve Martin film “Father of the Bride”, the television series “Nashville” and wife of country music superstar Brad Paisley, Kimberly Williams-Paisley is the author of “Where the Light Gets In: Losing My Mother Only to Find Her Again,” which chronicles her mother Linda’s battle with Alzheimer’s.”  Her mother passed away in November 2016 at the age of 73. [Source: Alz.org]

Princess Yasmin Aga Khan cared for her mother, Rita Hayworth, during the end stages of her battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. “Yasmin is a member of the Board of Directors serving as Honorary Vice Chair of the Alzheimer’s Association since 1981, which is headquartered in Chicago. She is the General Chair of the Rita Hayworth Gala’s which are held annually in New York and Chicago and the newly added Dallas Gala. Since their inception in 1984 she has helped to raise over $53 million for Alzheimer care, research and support. The Alzheimer’s Association has awarded more than $265 million in research grants since 1982. Yasmin is internationally recognized for her advocacy work promoting awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease. She was also a board member of the Alzheimer’s Association.” [Source: Huffpost]


Amy Grant  “The country singer’s father, Burton Grant, has debilitating dementia. She’s said that she and her three sisters are a caregiving team. “My advice to every family going through this is to talk honestly with each other.”  [Source: AARP]





Liz Hernandez  “The Access Hollywood host’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago and now needs 24-hour care. Hernandez, an advocate for Alzheimer’s patients, has said that she or another family member checks in with her mom every day.” [Source: AARP]



Hillary Clinton was a caregiver for her mother, Dorothy Rodham, during an illness until she passes away in 2011 at the age of 92. Her mother’s illness was kept private and it’s not known if she was affected by Alzheimer’s. However, the former Senator of New York, Secretary of State, and First Lady of the United States has been a long-time advocate of family caregivers and supported several pieces of proposed legislation to improve benefits for home care and significantly increase research funding for Alzheimer’s Disease.


Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women².  I would also like to recognize some famous women who battled Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease during the course of their lives.  These are well known public figures and celebrities who have touched the hearts and minds of millions and will always be remembered.  May they rest in peace.

Rita Hayworth

RITA HAYWORTH,  (Photo: Sony Pictures Musuem)

Rita Hayworth (October 17, 1918 – May 14, 1987) achieved fame during the 1940s as one of the era’s top stars, appearing in a total of 61 films over 37 years Before her diagnosis, the media accused her of being a drunk due to the confusion, outbursts, paranoia and all that goes along with the disease. Alzheimer’s was virtually unheard of and very little was known about the disease in these times.  It is believed that she had been living with the disease for decades before a proper diagnosis of Alzheimer’s was made in 1980.  Her daughter (Princess Yasmin Aga Khan – mentioned above) was her caregiver and is a board member of the Alzheimer’s Association. Rita Hayworth passed away in her Central Park West apartment in Manhattan at the age of 68.

Rosa Parks

ROSA PARKS, (Photo: Academy of Achievement)

Rosa Parks  (February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005) was a civil rights pioneer known as the “Mother of the Freedom Movement”. She was a major spark of the American civil rights movement when she was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat on  December 1, 1955. She co-founded the Rosa L. Parks Scholarship Foundation, assisted in many other organizations, and published an autobiography. Rosa was diagnosed with Dementia in 2004 and died the following year at the age of 92.

Margaret Thatcher


Margaret Thatcher (October 13, 1925 – April 8, 2013), the former prime minister of Great Britain, was one of the most commanding figures of the 20th Century.  The publicizing of her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s in her daughter’s memoir was shunned by the media across Britain.  Which is important to mention, because it’s this negative attitude that “underscores the shame many feel about the consequences of dementia, especially when it strikes the most intellectually powerful“.  The devastating illness ultimately contributed to her death in 2013 at age 87.

Arlene Francis

ARLENE FRANCIS, (Photo: Valerie J Nelson / Los Angeles Times)

Arlene Francis (October 20, 1907 – May 31, 2001)  was an American actress, radio and television talk show host, and game show panelist. She is known for her long-standing role as a panelist on the television game show What’s My Line?, on which she regularly appeared for 25 years, from 1950 through the mid-1970s.” Arlene died in San Francisco, California, from Alzheimer’s disease and cancer at the age of 93.

Geraldine Fitzgerald

GERALDINE FITZGERALD, (Photo: Valerie J Nelson / Los Angeles Times)

Geraldine Fitzgerald (November 24, 1913 – July 17, 2005) began as a stage actress in 1932 and is best known for her vivid portrayals of strong-willed and sometimes troubled women in such Hollywood classics as “Dark Victory” and “Wuthering HeightsGeraldine passed away in New York City on July 17, 2005 after a long 10 year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 91.  [Source: NYDailyNews]

Marian Mercer

MARIAN MERCER, (Photo: Elaine Woo / Los Angeles Times)

Marian Mercer (November 26, 1935 – April 27, 2011) was an American actress and singer whose five-decade career on film, TV and the stage included a 1969 Tony Award-winning performance in the original production of the musical “Promises, Promises”.  She died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease in Newbury Park, CA at the age of 75.  [Source:The Hollywood Reporter]

Evelyn Keyes


Evelyn Keyes (November 20, 1916 – July 4, 2008) was an American film actress who was best known for her role as Scarlett O’Hara’s sister in the 1939 film “Gone with the Wind”. She was also a writer and published a Hollywood-themed novel in her later years. Her memoirs in 1977 and 1991 kept her in the lime light right up until the end. After onset of Alzheimer’s disease in her later years, she eventually died in Montecito, California on July 4th at the age of 91 from uterine cancer.

Pauline Esther Phillips


Pauline Esther “Popo” Phillips, (July 4, 1918 – January 16, 2013) battled Alzheimer’s Disease for 11 years before she passed away at the age of 94.  Pauline’s writing career took off when she became the columnist famously known as Dear Abby back in January 1956.  During her decades writing the column , it became the most widely syndicated newspaper column in the world, syndicated in 1,400 newspapers with 110 million readers. She had an identical twin, who was also a famous columnist known as Ann Landers.

I’m sure there are many more famous women who have been touched by Alzheimer’s and deserve recognition, so if there’s anyone you would like to share in either of these lists, please feel free to leave your comments.


1 Family Caregiver Alliance. Women and Caregiving: Facts and Figures

² Alzheimer’s Association. 2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures

Could scientists be one step closer to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s?  

Before and after images of amyloid plaques in the brains of mice

Before and after images of amyloid plaques in the brains of mice.
Courtesy: Medicalxpress / Rockefeller University Press

Researchers successfully reverse Alzheimer’s disease in mouse model

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute have made a recent breakthrough in which they were able to completely reverse the formation of amyloid plaques in the brains of mice, thereby reversing the effects of Alzheimer’s disease on brain function.

With so many suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and its devastating effects on cognitive abilities, this new study brings great hope for those that are affected by this disease and their families.


Source: Medicalxpress  (Author: Rockefeller University Press posted on 02/14/2018)

10 Fun Activities for Moms with Alzheimer’s

Elder Depot's List of Activities for Mother's Day for those with AlzheimersMother’s Day is about honoring and celebrating mothers.  When you have an elderly mother or grandmother with Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, Mother’s Day shouldn’t just be about purchasing and dropping off a gift; but rather creating lasting memories that you can remember and cherish with your mother.  Elder Depot wanted to share our list of simple, easy things that you can do to bring some happiness to your mother’s life on this special day and create a wonderful memory.  The good news is that most of these suggestions are free and only require sharing a little of your time!

Activities can vary depending on the stage of Alzheimer’s, so we tried to create a variety of common and simple things that you can both enjoy.  The most important thing to remember is that you will one day cherish and be thankful for all of the moments that you spent with your mother – taking the time to show you cared.

10 Things To Do on Mother’s Day

  1. Have lunch or dinner together.
    If mom is in a nursing or assisted living home and unable to leave, cook up a quick meal or pick up a pre-made meal and sit with her while eating so you can enjoy the moment together
  2. Celebrate as if it were her birthday.
    Put a single candle in a cupcake or piece of cake and sing her “Happy Mother’s Day”
  3. Take a walk or sit outside together.
    If the weather permits, bring your mom outside for a walk or just some fresh air and sunshine (Vitamin D) and bring up some old memories! If mom is in a facility and physically able, ask to borrow a wheelchair or transport chair to wheel her outside for a short time.
  4. Have an old fashioned beauty day.
    How about a nice pedicure! Paint mom’s nails or put some curls in her hair and show her how good she looks in the mirror!
  5. Look over some old photos.
    Conjure up some memories of familiar faces or times by showing an old photo album or memorable photos. Maybe even do a little Scrapbooking.
  6. Sing some old church hymns or familiar songs.
    If your singing skills are not up to the task, listen to some old familiar tunes together. Encourage mom to sing along and you might get a surprising response!
  7. Put together a simple puzzle.
    Puzzles with larger pieces are easier to see and handle and those with brighter colors may draw more interest.
  8. Bring the family dog for a visit.
    If your family dog is friendly and calm enough for mom to be comfortable around, bring the dog over for some one-on-one contact. If mom is in a facility that will not allow pets, see if you can take the dog to her in the lobby or bring your mom outside to spend some time with the dog – animals can be very therapeutic!
  9. Watch an old movie together.
    Pop in an old favorite movie, like the Sound of Music!
  10. Enjoy some gardening.
    If your mom used to enjoy gardening, let her sit outside with you and watch you do some of the gardening. If she is in a facility or this is not possible, bring in some flowers from your garden and cut the stems and organize the vase with your mom and she’ll have a beautiful home-made bouquet.

We hope this list provides you with some useful suggestions to make your Mother’s Day special. The most important thing to remember is to spend some quality time with your mother on Mother’s Day. Its not about the best gifts, but about the memories you will have for years to come.

From all of us at Elder Depot, we wish you and your family a very Happy Mother’s Day!

We welcome your Comments or Suggestions for future articles! Please email us by Clicking Here.

The Power of a Valentine

Research conducted over the course of two decades by the Swedish Karolinska Institute found that married aging adults were half as likely to develop dementia as their single counterparts. The scientists behind the research believe that the intense social interaction of living with another person may be the reason behind this resistance. The research was based on a study of almost 1,500 people over the course of 21 years.

The Long List of Dementia Prevention “Maybes”

It seems like I’m always reading an article about a new study proclaiming that something “may” help prevent dementia. It’s hard to know how to take this news? Is this the slow march of science finally nearing useful results? Do the studies offer only false hope, placebos at best? I don’t have an answer but I thought I’d compile a list of all the dementia preventing “maybes” that I’ve come across.

  • Coffee – In a 21 year long study, Swedish and Danish researchers found that subjects who drank three to five cups of coffee daily were 65 percent less likely to develop dementia, compared with those who drank two cups or less.
  • Tea – According to a study by the University of Singapore, individuals who drink two to three cups of black tea daily are half as likely to show early signs of dementia as those who rarely drink it.
  • Vitamin D – Researchers in the United Kingdom found that the risk of cognitive impairment was 42 percent higher in individuals who were deficient in vitamin D, and 394 percent higher in those with severe vitamin D deficiency.
  • Curry – Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles believe that turmeric may play a role in slowing down the progression of the neurodegenerative disease.
  • Newspapers – The Mayo Clinic has conducted research indicating that reading magazines and newspapers can help protect against failing memory in old age.
  • Significant Other – Swedish research found that marriage or having a partner halved the risk of developing dementia.
  • Sleeping Habits – Prolonged sleep duration may be associated with an increased risk of dementia.
  • Discipline – Researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago may have discovered a connection between leading a conscientious life and reduced risks of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Juice – US researchers found the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease was 76% lower for those who drank juice more than three times a week, compared with those who drank it less than once a week.
  • Marijuana – Researchers at Madrid’s Complutense University and the Cajal Institute showed that a synthetic version of the active ingredient in Marijuana may reduce inflammation associated with Alzheimer’s and thus help to prevent mental decline.
  • Statins – Scientists have found further evidence that taking commonly used cholesterol-lowering statins may protect against dementia and memory loss.
  • Slimming Down – A US study of more than 700 adults showed that being overweight is associated with smaller brain volume, a factor linked with dementia.
  • Hormone Replacement Treatment – A study by the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London found that Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may protect post-menopausal women against memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Low Blood Pressure – Finnish Scientists have found that individuals with high blood pressure and raised cholesterol levels have a significantly higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as they age.
  • Avoiding Soy – A Loughborough University study has found that consuming high levels of some soy products, including tofu, may increase the risk of memory loss.
  • Vitamin E – Japanese Scientists found that a daily vitamin E supplement protects the brain of mice preventing the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
  • Nicotine – Researchers from the Scripps Research Institute in California, US believe that Nicotine may reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms.
  • Big Head – An American Scientist has claimed that individuals with small heads have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids – UCLA researchers believe that Omega-3 Fatty Acids, such as those found in fish oils, may delay or prevent Alzheimer’s.
  • Alcohol – According to a study by the University of Bari in Italy, individuals who drink alcohol moderately develop dementia at a slower rate than those who drink little. The study also indicated that individuals who drink excessively develop dementia more quickly than moderate drinkers or teetotalers.
  • Video Games – Studies of patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia or attention deficit disorder have found that those who play games have better speech and brain function.
  • Exercise – A study posted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information  found strength training is particularly effective for improving postural and motor function, and reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Walnuts – A study by the New York State Institute has found that mice who eat walnuts regularly were less likely to develop dementia.
  • Sense of Fulfillment – In a study conducted by the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, researchers found that participants with high scores on the life purpose test were 2.4 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared with those who had the lowest scores. (Added July 13th)

All of that shared, keep in mind that there is no conclusive evidence that lifestyle changes will prevent dementia. If I missed a “may” please post it in the comments and I’ll add it to the list.

What do you think of all these “mays”? Are they all part of a larger tread? Do only a few of them have merit? Are all of them a waste of time and effort? Let us know what you think, you might help another reader make up their own mind.