Emmy Award-Winning Journalist Meryl Comer's Book Chronicles the Devastating Toll Alzheimer's Takes on Both Patients and Caregivers

Ranit Schmelzer, 202-538-1065, rschmelzer@usagainstalzheimers.org

Slow Dancing With a Stranger: Lost and Found in the Age of Alzheimer’s is an Unflinching Account of Her Husband’s Battle with Alzheimer’s Disease

Washington, DC – Slow Dancing With a Stranger: Lost and Found in the Age of Alzheimer’s (release date on September 2nd by HarperOne) is a poignant and deeply personal account of Meryl Comer’s daily realities and overwhelming responsibilities as a full-time caretaker for her husband, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease at age 58.  Her story punctuates the fact that there are 15.5 million caregivers for the 5.4 million loved ones with this disease that now outranks cancer and HIV/AIDS as a looming public health issue.

“What is painfully striking, is that 20 years later nothing has changed,” said Comer.  “We still have no treatment, no cure and inadequate care options for this cruel and always fatal disease.  It’s time for our baby boom generation to get over their denial about aging and declare Alzheimer’s disease as ‘unacceptable’ to our future.  This is not the way we want to end our lives.”  Today, Comer continues to care for her husband in their home – as well as her mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years later – and has become a tireless advocate for Alzheimer’s as a way to “flip my pain.”

Alzheimer’s affects 5.4 million people in the U.S. and 44 million worldwide.  It is officially the sixth leading cause of death, but recent analysis shows that it is actually the third leading cause.  It is the only disease in the top ten that currently has no cure, treatment, or prevention.  Yet it receives dramatically less government funding, industry focus, or scientific study than other less widespread diseases.

The latest research also recognizes caregivers as the “second-hand victim” of long-term chronic disease who often suffer deleterious mental and physical health consequences.  Eighty percent of caregivers report stress, anxiety and depression caused by the 24-hour care for a loved one while neglecting their own health.  As a consequence, caregivers are also more likely to get Alzheimer’s themselves. 

From an economic perspective, many caregivers – who are overwhelmingly female, with an average age of 48 – are leaving the workforce entirely or cutting back their hours, impacting family budgets, and shrinking the overall productivity available to society.

“I resisted writing a book for a long time because I felt it unfair to offer advice when I might burnout myself.  I have survived by actively forgetting,” Comer said.  “As a caregiver, all I do is live in the moment – from one crisis to the next.  I hope I have respected my husband’s dignity by stepping out and telling it like it is.”

The trailer for Slow Dancing With A Stranger is available at www.merylcomer.com

As a board member of USAgainstAlzheimer’s, co-founder of WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s, and President of the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer’s Initiative, Comer is donating 100 percent of the proceeds of the book to Alzheimer’s research.

Gail Sheehy, author of Passages in Caregiving and DARING: My Passages calls Comer’s book, “a call to action as haunting and urgent as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.  Comer’s pain is contained in elegant writing and finally channeled into a worthy purpose.”

Ellen Goodman, Pulitzer Prize winning, nationally syndicated columnist and author, says, “No silver linings, no phony homages to spiritual growth.  Meryl Comer in Slow Dancing With A Stranger writes the unvarnished reality of being exposed as a wife, daughter, caregiver, and potential Alzheimer’s victim herself.  Admire her bravery and honesty and applaud her for taking away some of the loneliness of the long distance caregiver.”

Trish Vradenburg, co-founder of USAgainstAlzheimer’s and former comedy writer for the television show Designing Women, notes, “I wish I had access to Meryl Comer's wisdom 27 years ago when my mom was first diagnosed with Alzheimer's.  It makes all of us who have cared for loved ones with Alzheimer's feel a little less alone, a little more understood.”

To interview Meryl Comer, or get a copy of Slow Dancing With A Stranger, contact Ranit Schmelzer at 202.538.1065 or rschmelzer@usagainstalzheimer.com

 

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About Meryl Comer

Meryl Comer is an Emmy Award-winning reporter, producer, and business talk show host with over 30 years of experience in broadcast journalism.  She is a Board Member of USAgainstAlzheimer’s and a co-founder of WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s.  Comer is also President and CEO of the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer’s Initiative, which promotes early diagnosis, global innovation challenges and national public awareness campaigns like the 21st Century BrainTrust™, Geoffrey Beene’s Rock Stars of Science™, and the 2009 HBO Alzheimer’s Project.  She was a recipient of the 2005 Shriver Profiles in Dignity Award and the 2007 Proxmire Award, and has been the subject of primetime news stories about her husband’s illness by ABC’s Nightline, PBS’ NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and featured in MORE and Washingtonian magazine.  More information is available at www.merlycomer.com.

About USAgainstAlzheimer’s

USAgainstAlzheimer's is an entrepreneurial and disruptive organization demanding a solution to Alzheimer's by 2020. Driven by the suffering of millions of families USAgainstAlzheimer’s presses for greater urgency from government, industry and the scientific community in the quest for an Alzheimer's cure – accomplishing this through effective leadership, collaborative advocacy, and strategic investments. For more information, visit www.usagainstalzheimers.org.

About the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer’s Initiative

The Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer's Initiative was launched in 2007 as a major charitable beneficiary of the Geoffrey Beene Foundation to fight Alzheimer's – a fatal, degenerative, neurological disease that has no cure. The Initiative is a philanthropic, not for-profit 501(c)(3), committed to providing catalyst funding to innovative new projects that advance awareness, diagnosis and research in early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

 

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