Dec 022015

“Remembering No More: A Story of Change – Life in the Carolinas Alzheimer’s Special” is a segment of Carl White’s Life in the Carolinas, which first aired November 21, 2015.  In this special episode, Carl explores Alzheimer’s Disease. Focusing on the story of Vera, a gracious lady who suffers with Alzheimer’s, he explores the disease, how it impacts on patients and those who love the patients, and the efforts of the many men and women who are working to eradicate this devastating disease.

Vera lives in a memory center in Rock Hill South Carolina. Carl visits with her and discusses how Alzheimer’s has impacted her life and the lives of those who love her. Vera’s charm, sense of humor, and her vulnerability, are clear as she laughs, sings, and sometimes forgets. It is a bittersweet interview. He ends their visit with a promise to take her dancing some time.

Roger Ackerman, Rotary Member in Sumter SC Rotary Club, is the founder of C.A.R.T., or Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust. He discusses, with great emotion and affection, his mother-in-law’s struggle with Alzheimer’s, and how her suffering inspired him to explore ways to fight this disease. By emptying their spare change before each meeting, his club soon collected several thousand dollars. This seed grew. Today they provide millions of dollars for seed grant funding of Alzheimer’s research. Bill Shillito is the Executive Director of the C.A.R.T Fund. 1580 clubs and growing in the region contribute to the fund.

Allan Levey, MD is an Alzheimer’s Researcher at Emory University’s Brain Health Center. He tells Carl that Alzheimer’s Disease is a brain disease, not merely a function of aging. He was the first recipient of a C.A.R.T. grant and now serves on the review panel.

Ben Bahr, PhD, Alzheimer’s researcher and a professor at UNC Pembroke, is another recipient of a C.A.R.T. grant. He compares Alzheimer’s to a house where garbage piles up because it has no way to get rid of naturally accumulating waste (for example, byproducts of nutrients). Liposomes usually eliminate these wastes, acting as organic garbage disposals. People with Alzheimer’s have faulty or reduced lipsomes.

Erik Musiek, MD, PhD, is an Alzheimer’s Researcher in Washington University, St Loouis MO. He tells Carl that the government tends to fund established projects and labs. He is the 2015 recipient of the annual C.A.R.T grant.

Other members of Rotary International share their stories with Carl, including Robert Hall, a Rotary director, and his wife Charlene. They emphasize how universal it is, and its far reaching impact. Robert says, “What I like about Rotary is the power of one, the results of many.”

While research is a long-term resource, there are other short-term approaches to addressing the ravages of this disease. Carol Howell, Executive Director of Senior Life Journeys and Vera’s daughter, discusses one of the way her program battles Alzheimer’s Disease: music.

Carol has a life long association with choirs and has directed several church choirs. She has organized and leads The Carol Howell Agape Singers, a choir composed of people with Alzheimer’s. They were invited to perform at the 16th annual C.A.R.T. Fund Meeting in May 2015.

Dr. Bahr and Dr. Levey agree that music enhances an individual’s ability to recall and is a very useful therapy in the treatment of individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease. People who may not remember many other things often remember songs and how to dance.

In the end, Carl fulfills his promise to Vera. He arrives at the Blackstock Bluegrass venue in Blackstock SC during a blackout caused by a storm, where Vera and others have gathered for an evening of entertainment. At first Vera does not remember him, but they are soon dancing into the night.

Music truly is magic. As life begins to diminish, women like Vera, and organizations like the Rotary’s C.A.R.T., give hope to millions that Alzheimer’s will be cured. The memories fade, the lights grow dim, and yet, gracefully and bravely, Vera and many others dance on.

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