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Alzheimer’s Disease

Maria Shriver’s Story

Witnessing Her Father’s Battle with Alzheimer’s Disease

En español | Sargent Shriver was a brilliant, charismatic, and inspiring statesman, best known for founding the Peace Corps and running for vice president on the Democratic ticket in 1972.

Sargent Shriver, 94, has had Alzheimer’s the past seven years and is no longer able to recall his only daughter’s name.

A busy working mother raising young children, Maria Shriver was at first overwhelmed by the need to balance her kids, her work and her new caregiving duties for her father and her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who has since passed away.

“With Alzheimer’s, the financial cost is tremendous, the emotional cost is almost incalculable, and it seems to fall primarily on women’s shoulders.” — Maria Shriver

“There was practically no information out there [about Alzheimer’s], and it was viewed as a shameful thing to have,” says Shriver, 54, a noted broadcast journalist with NBC and the wife of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “With Alzheimer’s, the financial cost is tremendous, the emotional cost is almost incalculable, and it seems to fall primarily on women’s shoulders. ... In the beginning, I know I definitely felt overwhelmed on more days than not. And I have the financial resources to hire people to help and to get the best doctors. I kept thinking, ‘if I’m struggling here, and I have the financial resources and a flexible job, I can only imagine what everyone else does.’ ”

Shriver has dedicated herself to becoming a national activist on Alzheimer’s. She wrote a children’s book, What’s Happening to Grandpa?, and was executive producer of a four-part HBO documentary called The Alzheimer’s Project. She also has collaborated with the Alzheimer’s Association to produce the Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s, a wide-ranging look at how the disease impacts Americans, especially women.

For people who are concerned about getting Alzheimer’s, Shriver suggests maintaining a healthy lifestyle to reduce risk factors for getting the disease and getting clinical screenings. She also says families should discuss long-term plans. For caregivers, she urges education and communication. “I’d encourage them to get a support group and reach out for help,” she says, “because the toll on caregivers is real.”

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