Greg O’Brien: Learning to Live, and Not Die, with Alzheimer’s Disease

in Nonfiction by
Greg O’Brien

There’s hardly a family in America that hasn’t been touched by Alzheimer’s disease. More than 5.4 million people live with the disease and 500,000 die from it each year. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging and without being able to cure or prevent it, in the next 15 years it is expected to exceed heart disease and cancer as the leading cause of death. This could bankrupt Medicare.

Public awareness of Alzheimer’s—a balance between science, medicine and faith—needs to change dramatically in anticipation of the looming Alzheimer’s epidemic that is headed for the baby boomer generation. This is why November has been designated as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Begun in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, who would wage his own battle with the disease, organizers ask Americans to “go purple with a purpose” to show their support.

On Pluto Front CoverGreg O’Brien, an award-winning investigative reporter, and a master storyteller, was diagnosed at 59 with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Determined not to be defined by his illness, O’Brien wrote an illuminating, naked and honest account of living, not dying, with the disease in his memoir, On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s (Codfish Press, 2014). In his book, O’Brien speaks candidly about what it’s like to live with Alzheimer’s.

“While I have the facility to do so, I want to communicate to those who will face this demon someday that, with the proper medical direction, life strategies, faith, and humor, one can prevail,” he says. O’Brien may be in the battle of his life, but he’s not going down without a fight. He remains, for now, highly functional.

Bulletin-October.imgcache.rev1444053586805-resizeAs an elected member of the Alzheimer’s Association’s National Early-Stage Advisory Group, O’Brien is raising awareness of people with younger-onset Alzheimer’s and advocating for increased funding for research. He continues to speak across the country detailing his experiences living with Alzheimer’s and Wednesday, November 18, at 7:30 p.m. EDT, New Hampshire Public Television’s (NPTV) “PRIME” will air a segment that features O’Brien in an episode titled, “Windows to the Wild.” O’Brien is also being featured in “Inside Alzheimer’s” a series on National Public Radio and was featured in “Money and Memory: A Coming Concern” in the AARP Bulletin.

O’Brien is determined to raise awareness and bring hope. “Collectively,” says Greg, “we need to jumpstart a worldwide conversation about Alzheimer’s that continues far beyond movie reviews and accolades to move the world off its collective abnegation. The Alzheimer’s crisis is not looming; it’s here. As Mark Twain once said, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.”

Don’t miss our #BTLiveChat with O’Brien, November 12 at 4 PM.

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has been in the business of show business for more than 25 years having been the go-to person for press and marketing at leading regional theaters and for independent producers of stage and screen, including the late 20th Century Fox producer, Henry Weinstein. Claps was the on-air theater critic for local cable television, and senior arts editor for 10 Connecticut newspapers for which she was the recipient of numerous national and regional awards for her writing and layout design. Having spent the better part of the last decade working in New York City for Fortune 500 companies, she is glad to be back home, working locally and volunteering at area nonprofit arts organizations.

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