ML - Vegas Magazine

Vegas - 2015 - Issue 7 - November - Natalie Dormer

Vegas Magazine - Niche Media - There is a place beyond the crowds, beyond the ropes, where dreams are realized and success is celebrated. You are invited.

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Page 99 of 115

Elegantly clad in a body-skimming black and white gown, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan is the picture of grace as she mingles with the black-tie crowd in the grand ballroom of Chicago's Hilton Towers Hotel, which is festooned in royal purple on this Saturday night in May. With blonde hair cascading down her shoulders and sparkling Cartier diamond chandelier earrings capturing the light around her face, Aga Khan may be dressed for a celebration, but to anyone familiar with her passionate, decades- long fi ght against Alzheimer's disease, she clearly means business. This is the Alzheimer's Association Rita Hayworth Gala, a grand event held in New York and Chicago inspired by one of the Golden Age of Holly- wood's glamour queens, Aga Khan's mother. Diagnosed in 1981, Hayworth, the embodi- ment of Hollywood sex appeal in the '40s and '50s, was one of the fi rst public faces of Alzheimer's—the most common form of dementia. The condition, thought to be caused by the buildup of abnormal proteins (called "plaques and tangles") in the brain, often results in the gradual loss of memory and severe cognitive impairment. Hayworth's health had already seriously degenerated by the time of her diagnosis at age 62. "It started with problems remembering her lines when fi lming," notes Aga Khan, "and quickly developed into behavioral changes as well. I was actually relieved when she re- ceived the diagnosis of Alzheimer's because it explained why she was acting so differently than the mother I knew my whole life." As Hayworth's condition worsened, it was Aga Khan who came to her side. "Our roles reversed," she muses. "I became the mother and her guardian, and I had to do whatever I could do." Back then in the early 1980s, there wasn't much she could do. Alzheimer's was not yet a part of the public consciousness, and even the Alzheimer's Association was just "a mom and pop organization," as founder Jerry Stone described it to her at that time. But bolstered by the support the organization offered—and nudged by family friend Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who said, "OK, Yazzy, what are you going to do about this? You've got to do something to fi nd a way to raise money and awareness"—Aga Khan established the Rita Hayworth Gala in New York in 1984. And again, four years later, the Gala was held in Chicago to benefi t the Association's efforts of care, support, and research for people diagnosed with Alzheimer's. In the three decades to fol- low, the Gala has raised more than $66 million. Aga Khan's journey—the exhausting challenge of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease—is one to which millions of Americans can relate. Alzheimer's has reached epidemic propor- tions in this nation, and the numbers laid out in the 2015 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report are startling: 5.3 million Americans are living with the disease, two-thirds of them are women, and that total is projected to rise to 16 million by 2050. Alzheimer's is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and the only one in the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured, or slowed. Just as alarming is the fi nancial toll: In 2015, dementia-related diseases will cost the United States $226 billion. "This is now the most expensive disease in America, over cancer and heart disease," explains Dr. Dean Hartley, Director of Science Initiatives, Medical and Scientifi c Relations for the Alzheimer's Asso- ciation, "because of the number of years people live—somewhere between fi ve and eight years, and it gets more expensive as they progress." Indeed, it's estimated that by 2050 that number could rise to $1.1 trillion. GIVING TIL IT HURTS The real wake-up call, though, is what Hartley refers to as the "hidden cost" of the disease: The cost of caregiving. He says families caring directly for someone with Alzheimer's are providing some 17 bil- lion hours of additional support—or the equivalent of $214 billion of unpaid caregiving. "So not only is there an emotional impact for families caring for loved ones," Hartley explains, "but there's a huge economic burden that's only growing, to the point where it's going to impact our healthcare system." The emotional impact of caregiving that Hartley mentions can't be underestimated, says Larry Ruvo, who established the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas—a stunningly curvy stainless steel structure designed by Frank Gehry—after being dismayed by the "terrible, almost nonexistent care my father received when he had the disease, and the even worse care my mother received as a caregiver." He notes that caregivers are frequently "sleep-deprived, malnourished, stressed, all-too-often forgotten… and often die World-renowned Alzheimer's researcher Dr. Jeffrey Cummings, director of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. PHOTOGRAPHY BY CASHMAN PHOTO 98 VEGASMAGAZINE.COM

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