Shriver speaks at Alzheimer’s Alliance luncheon about disease’s devastation

Published on Monday, 16 September 2013 23:53 - Written by REBECCA HOEFFNER

To Mark Kennedy Shriver, an important legacy would be to be known for helping people in your own community — such as families caring for Alzheimer’s patients — and not being famous.

“Stop worrying about those things that will make you look good in the eyes of history,” he said. “Because really, who cares? If you make a difference in the community you’re in, you don’t know what kind of ripple effect that will have.”

Shriver spoke at the Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County Butterfly Hope Luncheon. Shriver’s father, Sargent Shriver, had his own battle with Alzheimer’s.

“I’m not going to sugar coat it, it is tough, for everyone,” he said. “It is emotionally and financially devastating.”

There is no cure yet for Alzheimer’s disease and it affects one in 10 people older than age of 65.

“Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, irreversible, fatal brain disorder with no known cause or cure,” according to information from the Alzheimer’s Alliance website. “Symptoms of the disease include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, personality changes, disorientation and loss of language skills. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of irreversible dementia.”

Despite his father’s struggle with the disease, Shriver said he still gained insight from him.

When he and his father were at one of his daughter’s games, Shriver was yelling, trying to get his daughter to be more competitive on the field.

“I know he didn’t know I was his son or that was his granddaughter,” he said. “But he said, ‘Hey you! Did I yell at you like that when you were a kid?’ And I remembered that he didn’t.”

Shriver, who prefers the word “lovegiver” to “caregiver,” said it’s important to get help from others to keep from getting burned out.

“Be willing to ask for help,” he said. “We Americans sometimes see it as a sign of weakness, but it’s not.”

Shriver wrote a book last year, “A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver,” which talks about his father’s commitment to faith, hope and love, even in Alzheimer’s.

“What you are doing by being here is an act of hope and love for your neighbor,” he said to the attendees. “It makes a huge difference to the families dealing with Alzheimer’s.”