Famous Alzheimer’s Sufferers

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Introduction

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia. Discovered in 1906 and named after its discoverer Alois Alzheimer, it is most common in people over the age of 65 but sometimes affect younger people, in which case it is referred to as ‘Early Onset Alzheimer’s’. It affects people differently but there are several common symptoms: short term memory loss, confusion, irritability, mood swings and in some cases, also loss of long term memory

1. Terry Pratchett

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The famous writer of the comedy fantasy ‘Discworld’ has sold over 85 million books worldwide. His popularity, once a niche, is enjoyed by millions of people as he explores ‘ through fantasy settings – concepts that affect our world. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2007, made a donation to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust and recorded a documentary for the BBC in order to raise awareness of the medical problem. His frankness about his condition has really raised awareness in the UK

2. Peter Falk

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The Columbo actor who dazzled us all with the sleuthing skills of the most iconic fictional detective since Sherlock Holmes, died in 2011 from cardiorespiratory arrest brought on my pneumonia and the Alzheimer’s that had blighted his later years. Unlike Pratchett, Falk and his family remained private about the condition until 2008 when he was photographed dazed and confused in the street. From then until his death in 2011, rumours of his condition were all over the media and Falk became a recluse

3. Ronald Reagan

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The actor turned President was always made fun of for his apparent dimness as a President. He may not have been as stupid as people made out, and many shrewd people lack common sense, he was a hard-line President who introduced many political and economic reforms. He also enjoyed the fruits of growing relationship between East and West, and is given much of the credit for it. He fought and defeated cancer several times in his life but sadly Alzheimer’s would claim him in the end. He made a public announcement about his condition in 1994 ‘ he died ten years later

4. Sugar Ray Robinson

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It is said that impact sports such as boxing, where the head will suffer many blows, the athlete has an increased likelihood of suffering brain damage and other neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. One of the greatest boxers of all time, in his later years he was diagnosed with diabetes and then much later, with Alzheimer’s. He had a troubled post-career life, was broke within a couple of years of retirement and died in 1989 aged 67.

5. James Doohan

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Most famous as Star Trek character ‘Scotty’, the Chief Engineer of the Enterprise, he wowed the world with his poor attempt at a generic Scottish accent which sometimes slipped into Welsh and sometimes into Irish. It is said that his down to earth demeanour in playing the techie inspired many people to enter into careers in engineering. Later in life he suffered a number of health conditions including diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease and then in 2004 with Alzheimer’s Disease. He died a year later

6. Harold Wilson

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Considered one of The Labour Party’s greatest ever Prime Ministers, he served from 1964-1970 and 1974-1976. He won four elections staggered over several terms and is the most recent Prime Minister to lead the country in two different periods of office. It is believe that Wilson suspected he had Early Onset Alzheimer’s in 1976 and upon his resignation he claimed that mental and physical fatigue had overtaken him. However, he remained in the House of Lords until a year before his death. He died in 1995 of colon cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease

7. Ferenc Puskás

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One of the world’s greatest footballers from what many consider the golden age of The Beautiful Game, he scored an incredible 514 goals at club level and 84 goals in 85 caps for his country. He was awarded Tournament’s Best Player for the 1954 FIFA World Cup. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in the year 2000 and died in 2006. He was so much-loved in Hungary that he was granted a military salute, was buried at St Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest and had a street near the national stadium renamed in his honour

8. Charles Bronson

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In his most famous series of films, he went around the streets of whichever city he ends up in putting right all the wrongs and killing the criminal gangs that the police could do nothing about. Charles Bronson is the quintessential screen vigilante as Paul Kersey. He appeared in a number of high profile films in the 1960s and 1970s. Like many other deaths from Alzheimer’s, associated complications meant that other reasons were recorded as cause of death: in Bronson’s case, this was pneumonia

9. Iris Murdoch

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The Irish born British writer, philosopher and political commentator is considered one of the greatest writers of the latter half of the 20th century. She wrote extensively about modern morality and her works of fiction have been compared to Dostoevsky, Proust, Tolstoy and George Eliot. She wrote about Jean-Paul Sartre, usually from a critic’s standpoint. Murdoch began to show the signs of Alzheimer’s Disease in 1995. Initially, she put her exhaustion down to writer’s block. She died in 1999 aged 79.

10. Enid Blyton

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The famous children’s writer who made it big in the 1930s is still popular amongst modern audiences despite the world having changed so much. She is best remembered for Noddy, The Famous Five and The Secret Seven which have delighted children ‘ both male and female ‘ for generations. There is a strong moral code to each of her books that still resonate too. Blyton died in 1968 having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1960 and having lost her husband (who suffered ill health including arthritis) in 1967

Conclusion

As yet there is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease but typical life expectancy after diagnosis is around 14 years. It can progress quickly for some though, rapid deterioration is not uncommon and neither is a slow deterioration. Terry Pratchett especially has been open and frank about his deterioration, commenting through his blog and in the media about how it is affecting him and will affect his writing as the disease progresses

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