The Buckhead resident’s husband, Mack, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which causes dementia including memory loss and behavior problems, in 1996 at age 67. He died in 2008 and was a patient of Dr. Allen Levey, director of the Emory University Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and chairman of the DeKalb County college’s neurology department.
“Everyone has a different recipe for dealing with Alzheimer’s individually and as a family, and it’s very important for the larger public to understand there’s no right or wrong way of coping with this horrible disease as long as it’s done out of love and as long as we understand the disease can take the life of two people, the person with the diseases and the caregiver,” Taylor said. “No one should underestimate the toll it takes on the family.”
Since then she has gotten involved with both the center, the Southeast’s only recognized comprehensive Alzheimer’s research facility of its kind, and the Alzheimer’s Society of Atlanta, a nonprofit raising funds for research and treatment of the disease.
May 16, Taylor and Leonard Lauder, son of Estee Lauder, are co-hosting the inaugural Hope on the Horizon, a symposium and luncheon at the Piedmont Driving Club in Midtown to raise funds for and awareness of Alzheimer’s disease research and treatment.
The event is a partnership between the society and the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit whose mission is to speed the discovery of drugs to prevent, treat and cure the disease, related dementias and cognitive aging. Leonard Lauder and his brother Ronald co-founded the organization and lead its board of governors, and Taylor is on its board of overseers. All proceeds from the event will go to the Emory center, and organizers hope to raise between $150,000 and $200,000.
The event will begin with the symposium, Conquering Alzheimer’s Disease: A Progress Report, by Dr. Howard Fillit, the foundation’s executive director and chief science officer. The luncheon will include interviews with Fillit and Levey led by emcee Jaye Watson of NBC’s 11 Alive.
The event also will honor nationally known interior designer Dan Carithers, 74, a Buckhead resident who was fully diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at Emory in 2010 and retired that year following a 48-year career. Carithers’ wife Nancy said Dan “has always been very active” and had a difficult time retiring.
“To be chosen is an honor,” he said. “I would do anything to help with the future of the disease, curing it or handling it somehow. It doesn’t have to be difficult. It runs in my family, too.”
His mother, Mildred Elizabeth Carithers; grandmother, Cora Gibson, and two of his aunts Mary and Daisy, also had Alzheimer’s.
“Honoring Dan Carithers is our way of recognizing that Alzheimer’s is robbing our community of its best and brightest minds, its most creative and innovative thinkers,” Taylor said.
However, she said, there is reason for optimism based on medical advances.
“There’s no cure but we are probably at a juncture in our research that offers greater hope than we’ve experienced to date,” she said of the disease. “This is because we can diagnose the disease now, prior to the first symptoms. … Up to this point, the drugs have been designed for people who have already been diagnosed with the disease, but now we’re able diagnose to treat the disease sooner and designing drugs that can help slow it down.
“Number two, we are in clinical trials at Emory and different academic research centers across the country, with drugs that already have FDA approval. .. The beauty of it is it reduces the cost of clinical trials by half and reduces the time frame by half, which speeds up the process of getting these drugs to market.”
Taylor said Alzheimer’s will one day affect everyone in the U.S., and statistics are beginning to prove that claim.
According to a study released April 3 by the Rand Corp., a Santa Monica-based nonprofit, treating dementia of all types costs more than heart disease or cancer, between $157 billion and $215 billion annually in the U.S., including the value of informal care.
According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s website, an estimated 5.1 million Americans have the disease. The discovery foundation’s website states one in three individuals in the U.S. will be affected by Alzheimer’s by age 80.
Taylor said she hopes the National Institutes of Health increases funding of the disease, which currently gets $450 million. Heart disease receives $5 billion and AIDS $3 billion, she added.
“[Alzheimer’s] is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and one of two people who die has dementia. … It is on its way to becoming the most costly disease in the United States. … Sooner or later this disease is going to touch every family in America with devastating consequences.”
If you go:
o What: Hope on the Horizon
o When: May 16 from 10:45 a.m. to 2 p.m.
o Where: Piedmont Driving Club, 1215 Piedmont Ave., Midtown
o Benefits: Emory University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center
o Tickets: starting at $125
o Information and donations: http://bit.ly/YhH53D