Guest Blog: When Alzheimer’s Touches Your Life

We are extremely excited to have Marilynn Garzione, professor at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, with us today to talk about her vast personal experience with Alzheimer’s Disease. She will also appear as a regular guest blogger in the month of November.

Alzheimer’s is universally destructive….but it is so incredibly personal.  For every person whose life has been touched by this disease there is a story, and every story is personal.

My name is Marilynn Garzione, I teach at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, and my story began way back in the 1960s when my grandmother had Alzheimer’s.  This was in an era when the disease didn’t even have a name, but by the time she died, I certainly knew that, with or without a name, this was a disease capable of robbing the very core of consciousness and destroying the structure of normal family life.

And then…my father got Alzheimer’s.  His was a prolonged battle that led to his death in 2000.  Through this personal experience, I slowly began to realize the power of this disease, and the helplessness of those witnessing its strength.

And then….my husband, Patrick, got Alzheimer’s.  Together we faced the progression of each stage, leaning on each other, sharing moments of strength, while trying desperately to prepare ourselves for what we knew would come.  Pat died in 2007.

And then….my mother got Alzheimer’s. She is now in the final stages of the disease.

This is the reason I am with you today.  I have to be.  But lest you think that all of this has left me bitter and angry, it has not. I, like thousands of others, have felt the impact of Alzheimer’s.  But I have found also that, while we have no control over this disease, we do have control over how we react to this disease.  We can choose to focus on moments that can edify and strengthen us.  And, we can choose to hope.

Hope.  Perhaps not the hope that a cure will come tomorrow—reality tells us this won’t happen.  But in these last years especially, there are tremendous strides being made in the search for medicines that will prolong a meaningful level of life and function within Alzheimer’s.  I take heart in the recent New Medicnes in Development for Alzheimer’s Disease report. With efforts such as these, I am confident that the search will continue until, at last, a cure is found.

During the month of November I will be posting a weekly blog on this site.  On schedule, too, is an upcoming social media chat that I will be participating in.  I am looking forward to this format as an opportunity to exchange ideas and to hear your stories, too.

I know we are together in our commitment to fight this disease.  And in so doing, we will give a gift to others so that their loved ones will never have to go through this.  I take joy in knowing that as we continue the fight for a cure, we will not mourn our loved ones.

We will celebrate their lives.  

Marilynn Garzione teaches at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York and is the author of Released to the Angels: Discovering the Hidden Gifts of Alzheimer’s. Visit her on her website:

Jaime Venditti, 10/4/12