Celebrities with Alzheimer’s have taken significant steps in raising awareness, from charities to story-sharing. We rounded up famous faces who battled Alzheimer’s and their advocates.
Famous People with Alzheimer’s
Famous people who have had Alzheimer’s raised awareness through visibility. Here is a list of former presidents, artists, and actors with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Rita Hayworth (1918-1987): Actress Rita Hayworth did not receive a proper Alzheimer’s diagnosis until 1979, despite experiencing symptoms as early as the 1960s. Hayworth ultimately became the face of the disease in the 1980s, and the Alzheimer’s Association recently celebrated the 35th Annual Rita Hayworth Gala in New York City. The organization has raised more than $75 million as a result of these galas.
- Charleton Heston (1923-2008): Actor Charleton Heston wrote a letter in 2002, intending to raise Alzheimer’s awareness. He wrote, “If you see a little less spring in my step, if your name fails to leap to my lips, you’ll know why. And if I tell you a funny story for the second time, please laugh anyway…Please feel no sympathy for me. I don’t. I just may be a little less accessible to you, despite my wishes.”
- Ronald Reagan (1911-2004): Six years after his presidency, Ronald Reagan revealed that he was “one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.” He said, “We feel it is important to share it with you. In opening our hearts, we hope this might promote a greater awareness of this condition.”
- Norman Rockwell (1894-1978): Painter Norman Rockwell is best known for capturing nostalgic scenes in his work. Therapists have gone on to use his scenes to stimulate cognitive function and memory in dementia patients.
- Robin Williams (1951-2014): Susan Schneider Williams, Robin Williams’ widow, blamed her husband’s 2014 suicide on his Lewy body dementia. In 2016, Susan Williams wrote an op-ed for the journal, Neurology. In the piece, she addressed neurologists: “My hope is that it will help you understand your patients along with their spouses and caregivers a little more. And as for the research you do, perhaps this will add a few more faces behind the why you do what you do. I am sure there are already so many.”
Celebrity Alzheimer’s Advocates
Celebrities affected by Alzheimer’s disease have equally raised awareness.
- Scott Conant: Celebrity chef Scott Conant donated his $50,000 grand prize from the reality-competition series Chopped All-Stars to Keep Memory Alive, which funds research and programs dedicated to improving the lives of those affected by brain disorders and their families.
- Candy Crowley: Former news anchor Candy Crowley shared anecdotes about her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s at the 2014 Alzheimer’s Association Advocacy Forum. She emphasized the importance of sharing stories to move lawmakers to take action. “Whatever it is you’re thinking you don’t want to talk about is probably what you should say,” Crowley said at the forum.
- Victor Garber: Actor Victor Garber lost both of his parents to Alzheimer’s and has since become an outspoken advocate. He noted that his castmates on the television show Alias all became advocates and got to know his mother. Garber intends to use his platform to elevate these issues. “Celebrity does draw people in,” he said. “I will take advantage of it and do whatever I can, when I’m asked.”
- Seth Rogen: After his mother-in-law received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Seth and his wife created Hilarity for Charity, an organization dedicated to bridging the gap between millennials and understanding Alzheimer’s. Since 2012, it has been dedicated to raising awareness and inspiring change in Alzheimer’s care through millennial engagement.
- Maria Shriver: Author, Journalist, and former First Lady of California Maria Shriver has taken on several awareness projects since her father received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. She participated in the HBO documentary “The Alzheimer’s Project” and testified in front of Congress about the effects of the disease. Additionally, she wrote What’s Happening to Grandpa?, a children’s book written from the perspective of a child whose grandfather has Alzheimer’s.