Actor and comedian Seth Rogen and actress and filmmaker Lauren Miller Rogen are committed to raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease, supporting caregivers, and advocating for brain health.
Their advocacy is personal.
“Alzheimer’s touched my life from a young age,” Miller Rogen said. “My grandfather had it from when I was very young and then my grandmother had dementia, and then my mom was diagnosed when she was 55.
“That started to make a huge impact on my life, and I felt how most people feel when a loved one gets an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, which was really scared and lost and depressed and feeling really alone.”
Then she had a realization: She and her husband could use their celebrity to talk about the degenerative brain disease that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. Miller Rogen thought people might listen more if they heard a young person talking about it. They held a successful fundraiser and it was the start of something bigger.
In 2012, they created the non-profit HFC (formerly Hilarity for Charity) to increase awareness about Alzheimer’s, care for families impacted by the disease, inspire future generations to become Alzheimer’s advocates, and to engage with the community. They offer resources for caregivers and tips on promoting brain health.
Laughter is part of their strategy too. “We work in comedy, we’re both filmmakers,” Rogen said. “It is good to laugh and humor is therapeutic.”
Currently, 6.2 million Americans age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s. That number is projected to double by 2050.
There’s no cure for the disease, which is marked by memory loss and confusion. But there are some medications and therapies that can help manage symptoms.
While Miller Rogen’s mother died in February 2020 from early onset Alzheimer’s, the couple’s advocacy work continues.
When they started, they felt like they were the only ones talking about the disease. But that’s changing.
“It feels like something that many more people are talking about,” Rogen said. “I see ads and things on television and social media. People I know have seemed more comfortable sharing stories from their own families and their own experiences.”
Caring for caregivers
The emotional, physical, and financial strains of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s are intense. Last year alone, caregivers provided approximately 15.3 billion hours of unpaid care, a value of almost $257 billion.
That’s why HFC and the Home Instead® network offer respite grants for those providing care to loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. The caregivers get much-needed time for themselves, while knowing their loved one is receiving quality care at home.
In 2019, they awarded over $1 million in grants, providing 50,000 hours of in-home respite care for 371 families. The Rogens received Justice for Aging’s “Impact Award” for their work raising awareness about Alzheimer’s and granting over 290,000 hours of in-home care to families through HFC.
“Alzheimer’s has a gigantic stigma,” said Miller Rogen, who says people don’t talk about the disease enough. “I think that the way you can start to tear down those stigmas is through stories and through humanizing things.”
HFC’s website has a wall of personal Alzheimer’s stories. She encourages people to tell their Alzheimer’s stories so others feel less alone.
“It’s really important to me to make sure that young people feel like they are being supported,” she said, “because when they share their story, the stigma will come down and that will lead to change.”