By Damian Garde (writing for FierceBiotech)
There is a scene in the documentary I’ll Be Me in which musician Glen Campbell, the movie’s subject, watches grainy old home videos alongside his wife, puzzling over what’s in front of him and constantly asking just who all these people are. That’s Billy. That’s your second wife; you were married for 16 years. That’s you, honey.
The movie chronicles Campbell’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease, a memory-robbing ailment that is gradually eroding his ability to perform simple tasks, recognize his family and play his music. We see Campbell, seated gamely at the Mayo Clinic, listening as Dr. Ronald Petersen points to an MR scan of his brain, showing that his hippocampus, vital to memory, is simply disappearing. And we see Campbell embark on a farewell tour, determined to get out in front of his audience for a final time after a 50-year career despite the worsening of his symptoms. With each performance his fingers a little clumsier on his guitar, the lyrics a little slower to his lips. Eventually he will need to move to an around-the-clock treatment facility, as the disease will have left him incapable of caring for himself.
Campbell’s experience is broadly shared by about 5.3 million Americans, a number that could more than triple by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Deaths from Alzheimer’s increased about 71% from 2000 to 2013, according to the group, and the disease is alone among the top 10 causes of mortality in that it cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.
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