Following the release of Still Alice, a movie staring Julianne Moore as a Columbia linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, several courageous members of our Early Stage Group got together to kick off a new social media campaign, #StillMe. The campaign aims to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease by putting a face on a disease that affects more than 5 million Americans.
Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s, a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over time. In its early stages, memory loss is mild. In the late-stages of Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. The #StillMe project aims to emphasize the individuals behind a disease that slowly robs them of themselves.
It is the slow and sorrowful progression of Alzheimer’s disease in a loved one that inspired Brad Torchia, a Denver based professional photographer, to get involved with the project:
A few years ago my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. My family lives across the country from me, and on my trips home every six months I would notice her decline, as well as the devastating effect it was having on everyone around her. I started photographing her as a way to make sense of the situation, and slow the process in my mind. Over time, this has turned into a larger scale portrait project that I have been working on in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado. I provide portraits of those living with the disease to their families at no cost, and simultaneously create a personal body of work. With this series, my goal is to convey the personality, and subtle, but noticeable effects that begin to take shape within the first stages of diagnosis, as well as contribute to the growing conversation around this disease.
Barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or stop the disease, by 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease may nearly triple to as many as 16 million. Despite this trajectory, Alzheimer’s remains the most expensive condition in the United States, and one of the most underfunded disease. Hopefully, the #StillMe campaign can shed a light on the individuals behind these statistics, because where there is humanity there is hope.