As part of an awareness campaign with Alzheimer’s Research U.K., “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston in an emotional video likening the effect of Alzheimer’s on the brain to an orange. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, which causes problems with memory, behavior and thinking, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s leaves the brain weighing 140 grams less than a healthy one — roughly the weight of an average-size orange. The campaign, called #ShareTheOrange, uses this metaphor to describe the way that loss of memory and brain function affects Alzeheimer’s patients.
Currently an incurable disease, Alzheimer’s can also be challenging for caregivers. Cranston knows that from his mother’s disease progression.
“A year or two prior to her diagnosis, I regretfully remember getting irritated with her when she became careless and forgetful about the simplest things that I deemed automatic,” says Cranston, admitting at first he didn’t suspect Alzheimer’s and wasn’t fully knowledgeable about it. “I knew something was terribly wrong when I found her struggling to put her arms through a garment. She didn’t realize it wasn’t a blouse, but a pair of pants.”
For caregivers, Cranston says, it can be emotional to watch such deterioration. He recalls visiting his mother at a care facility provided by the Motion Picture Hospital in Los Angeles: “We could see the gradual diminishment of her faculties, her memory slipping to a point where it seemed like we became just some nice people who would spend some caring time with her.”
He suggests a word of advice for those individuals: “Try the best you can to accept the ‘different’ relationship with your loved one — whatever that may become. To help me do that, I tried to look for the lighter side of life. A laugh can be very therapeutic — for the patient and the caregiver.”
While organizations like Alzheimer’s Research U.K. strive to find a cure for the disease, Cranston is raising awareness of research, and the power and strength of caregivers.
Cranston knows that having the will to stand by a loved one with Alzheimer’s isn’t easy. “The caregiver is the unheralded hero of humanity. I revere caregivers as I do first responders.”