There is often a stigma associated with mental illness or really, diseases of any kind, and unless it has impacted you personally or someone you know, you hardly ever hear about it. Conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s, are like a whisper in the wind because people are either afraid to talk about them, don’t know enough about them, or simply unwilling to talk about them. With the number of people living with one of these conditions or affected by it on the rise, the topic becomes harder for many to ignore. Let’s take a look at the numbers.
- In 2015, it was estimated that more than 47.5 million people were living with dementia worldwide
- As of 2017, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s
- By 2050, this number could be as high as 16 million
- Over 200,000 people under the age of 65 are living with early on-set Alzheimer’s dementia
- Worldwide, more than 10 million people live with Parkinson’s disease, including as many as one million Americans
With these numbers increasingly around the world, you’ll soon be hard-pressed to not know of someone who has experienced one of the three. In fact, there are familiar faces who have experience with Dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Take a look at the following famous people with Dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
- 40th President of the United States (1981 – 1989)
- Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1994, though many speculate that symptoms in his speech were prevalent years before his diagnosis. He became an advocate for Alzheimer’s – dedicating the month of November as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. In 2004, he developed pneumonia and passed away at the age of 93.
Michael J. Fox
- A television star from a young age, Michael J. Fox is most recognized from the Back to the Future Trilogy and Teen Wolf. In 1991, he was diagnosed with young on-set Parkinson’s Disease and didn’t speak about the diagnosis for nearly a decade. In pursuit of a cure, his stardom allowed him to become the face of Parkinson’s Disease awareness and in 2000, founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. He stepped away from the acting spotlight until recently, where he stars in his own show about a man living with Parkinson’s disease, who decides to return to work. His fame has allowed him to become the most well-known advocate for the disease.
- Boxing’s most celebrated athlete and heavyweight champion in the 20th century, Muhammad Ali, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1984, three years after he retired from boxing. Although there is no definite research that shows boxing contributed to Parkinson’s or accelerated the disease, some claim that symptoms were present towards the end of his career – those including slurred speech and uncoordinated movement.
- David Cassidy, who is most widely known for his role as Keith Partridge on The Partridge Family, a musical sitcom from the 1970’s. He then became a celebrated pop culture and teen idol. Cassidy revealed in February 2017 he had been diagnosed with Dementia and also admitted he had expected the diagnosis since both his mother and his grandfather had been previously diagnosed. Cassidy also admits he ignored the possibility for as long as he could and when he struggled to remember the lyrics to a song he’d been performing for nearly 50 years, he had to face the inevitable.
There are other notable celebrities and famous faces that have become active advocates for the cause, such as Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Seth Rogen and his wife, Lauren Miller.
- The actress and wife of country music star Brad Paisley experienced a close and personal struggle with Dementia since her mother was diagnosed. Williams-Paisley and her family members began noticing signs of mental and cognitive decline when her mother began to have frequent signs of confusion and mispronouncing words. The ultimate turning point for her family was when her mother attempted to order nachos at a local Starbucks Coffee. Soon after, her mother was diagnosed with an early on-set form of Dementia called Primary Progressive Aphasia, which left her mother moody, accident-prone and increasingly unable to recognize her own family.
- Kimberly Williams-Paisley became a familiar face and spokeswoman for the Alzheimer’s Association and penned a memoir of her mother’s journey with Dementia.
- She says it’s extremely important to embrace the silver linings and the positive in every day.
- In October 2016, Kimberly’s mother, Linda Payne Williams, passed away at the age of 73.
- You can find more about Kimberly’s memoir here.
Seth Rogen and Lauren Miller
- This comedic couple founded Hilarity for Charity in 2012, a movement that aims to inspire change and raise awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease among the millennial generation.
- Lauren Miller’s maternal grandparents and her mother were all diagnosed with Alzheimer’s throughout Miller’s life. Her mother was diagnosed at 55 years old with early on-set Alzheimer’s.
- Through their unique efforts like hosting variety and comedy shows with other major celebrities, the organization and its founders hope to inspire change through engagement and awareness from the millennial generation.
It’s important for people who are diagnosed with Dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s or know someone who has been diagnosed that there are resources and people out there who can help. With the number of those diagnosed increasing every day, becoming an advocate as well as bringing awareness to the disease can help us one day, find a cure. If someone close to you has been diagnosed with Dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease and need guidance, resources, or advice, please contact us today to find out how we can help.