Critically-acclaimed, winner of the Primetime Emmy Award "THE FORGETTING: A PORTRAIT OF ALZHEIMER'S" will be rebroadcasted nationally Sunday, August 3 on PBS. Locally, the program will air on KUED 7.1 Sunday, August 3, at 8 p.m. and simultaneously on KUED HD 7.2, with additional showings on the HD 7.2 channel Sunday, August 3 at 11 p.m., Wednesday, August 6 at 8 a.m. and Friday, August 8 at noon.
The program will be followed by a new, 30-minute special entitled "The Future of Alzheimer's," hosted by actor David Hyde Pierce, who has experienced Alzheimer's first-hand through the illness of his grandfather and his father. Pierce moderates a panel of medical experts and scientists who discuss the latest developments in research, early diagnosis and treatment, and what it all means for patients and their families.
When the documentary "THE FORGETTING: A Portrait of Alzheimer's" was originally broadcast on PBS in 2004, more than 10 million people tuned in to watch. Since then, there have been significant advances in Alzheimer's research, but still more than two million more Americans have developed the disease.
"While recent advances show exciting progress and promise, effective therapies to combat Alzheimer's disease remain frustratingly out of reach," says Pierce. "With each year that passes, my fear for my generation grows. Millions of baby boomers will get Alzheimer's disease if we don't find a way to beat it soon."
THE FORGETTING documentary focuses on the scientific quests to eradicate Alzheimer's and the families whose lives have been steadily ravaged by it. Despite recent advances in the laboratory, the experience of living with Alzheimer's has not changed very much. In fact, of the four principal patients featured in THE FORGETTING, all but one has died since the original broadcast in 2004. And Harry Fuget and Thomas McKenna-who cared so lovingly for their wives as they battled the disease -- have also died.
As is common with Alzheimer's disease, the role of primary caregiver for so many years took a toll on both Harry and Thomas' own health. "Like so many, the families who shared their stories in THE FORGETTING all had one major motivation in common -- they wanted to let other people facing similar situations know that they are not alone, that there is help, and that they, too, faced Alzheimer's with dignity and grace," says award-winning producer and director Elizabeth Arledge.
THE FORGETTING follows the plight of scientists and clinicians like Dr. Steven DeKosky, director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh. In addition to treating patients like Gladys Fuget, Dr. DeKosky conducts testing to determine whether a person's memory lapses are the product of normal aging or Alzheimer's.
The number of people living with early stage Alzheimer's and managing their own lives is quickly rising, due largely to advances in early diagnosis. These people represent a new face of the disease. By 2050, the Alzheimer's Association projects as many as 16 million Americans will have the disease, up from approximately 5 million today.
For Dr. DeKosky's patient Rita Scully, the news is not good. DeKosky believes she probably has early stage, mild Alzheimer's. There is no cure and no way to predict how the disease will progress. She will be monitored and take medications that hopefully will slow the progression. While she is fortunate to have a son to take care of her, the reality is Rita may need to rely on him for many years to come. As the disease spreads, the brain begins to shrink; personality changes and long-term memories eventually disappear. In the late stages speech becomes impossible. Then, finally, the parts of the brain that control basic functions like breathing and swallowing shut down. The time between diagnosis and death can be anywhere from eight to 20 years.
For the children of Alzheimer's victims, there is the added fear of one day getting the disease themselves. And in particular, when the genetically-linked strain of the disease occurs, it threatens all family members, like the 10 children of Julia Noonan. Julie Lawson remembers the onset of her mother And yet scientific progress could not help many of the patients in THE FORGETTING. For the Noonan siblings and their children, however, the research could prove to be the difference between growing old with grace or losing their minds-and eventually their lives-to Alzheimer's.
Using specially-created animations to reveal the complex workings of the brain, "THE FORGETTING" helps viewers understand how Alzheimer's begins, how it does its damage, and what kinds of techniques medical researchers are using to arrive at a way of conquering it. And by following the scientific adventure story as leading scientists search for answers to Alzheimer's mysteries, "THE FORGETTING" offers a fascinating insider's glimpse of the latest work on the disease and what potential treatments are in the pipeline.
While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer's, researchers at many labs around the country are searching for ways to slow the progression of the disease. Some of the most promising research has been focusing on plaque deposits in the brain that seem to form long before there is any noticeable forgetting. But being able to see these plaques inside living brains has eluded the grasp of scientists for over a century, leaving no way to gauge the impact of potential drug therapies short of waiting to observe the effects on patients' behavior. This could take years.
When Dr. DeKosky was at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 2004, his team had a key breakthrough that involved the development of a staining compound called the Pittsburgh Compound that allows scientists to see Alzheimer's plaques in living brain tissue without harming the patient. This vital research tool could enable scientists to monitor the impact of drugs designed to attack the plaques. Working in collaboration with radiologists at the Alzheimer's Disease Research Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital, the two teams have been able to use the Pittsburgh Compound to look deep inside the living brain tissue of research mice.
In an extremely hopeful moment, "THE FORGETTING" is with the scientists as they begin their first human tests in the U.S., tests that show the Pittsburgh Compound to be a promising leap forward in Alzheimer's research. And yet scientific progress could not help many of the patients in "THE FORGETTING." For the Noonan siblings and their children, however, the research could prove to be the difference between growing old with grace or losing their minds -- and eventually their lives -- to Alzheimer's. "This disease affects everyone. As I speak with audiences around the country I find that there is usually only one degree of separation between every person in the room and an Alzheimer's patient. This is a disease that simply cannot be ignored and will not go away anytime soon," says Naomi Boak, Executive Producer of "THE FORGETTING."
Utah has one of the fastest-growing senior populations in the nation. According to the 2000 census, the population of Utahns age 65 and older is the sixth fastest growing in the U. S. In the next 10 years, that population is projected to increase by 27 percent and by the year 2030, our aging population will increase by a whopping 165 percent. Because of this huge increase, Utah can expect to see a dramatic rise in the number of those afflicted by Alzheimer's Disease. Currently, more than 30,000 Utahns live with Alzheimer's.
"That's why KUED thinks it is important to provide as much information as possible to help viewers understand and cope with this devastating illness," says KUED General Manager Larry Smith.
For more information on this topic, visit www.kued.org.
Isabelle McKenna with her daughter Maureen
Program Host David Hyde Pierce
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