I first started to notice something was wrong when my dad would regale me with stories of college years, and travels with his friends where they were up to no good. As months and years went by, he started to forget the things we talked about the day prior, but the stories from long ago kept coming. Years later, my dad couldn’t remember who I was, but he was still my dad. While he was mobile, we would take him around the golf course in a cart, put a golf club in his hands, and he would swing away. Muscle memory? Maybe. We would play tunes from his time in the marines, and he would smile and hum along. He loved to march and dance to them with my mom, his children, or aides. We always wondered if he understood but just couldn’t get the words out. What I do know is that my dad knew he was surrounded by people he loved and who loved him.
The stigma around Alzheimer’s is real and yet, there are still so many unanswered questions surrounding the illness. Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory, thinking skills, and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. It’s a disease that causes brilliant, fun-loving, strong, athletic people to lose their identities, unable to perform menial tasks or communicate. Its effects become so frustrating, confusing, and lonely for the individual affected as well as heartbreaking for their family. You see your loved one lose the essence of themselves. In the end, I know my dad was “there” – the hugs, the smile, or just a look.
Alzheimer’s is one of the top five causes of death. Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) — a nonprofit organization whose mission is to rapidly accelerate the discovery of drugs to prevent, treat, and cure Alzheimer’s disease — is taking strides to change this. To date, the foundation has awarded more than $209 million to fund over 690 Alzheimer’s drug discovery programs, biomarker programs, and clinical trials in 19 countries.
I am honored to be able to work with ADDF in helping build their leadership team and fuel my personal passion to find a cure. Mark Roithmayr, the CEO of the ADDF commented:
” The science has never been more hopeful. We can now diagnose [Alzheimer’s disease] before symptoms occur. We know prevention can work. The first new drugs to treat [Alzheimer’s] in 20 years are beginning to get approval…Most importantly, there is — thanks to the ADDF — a robust pipeline of new drugs targeting the diverse pathways of the disease that will be coming to market in the next decade.”
As we enter into November, Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, I thank the people that are helping to try and stop this disease and think about my dad as I know he is cheering us all on!
Sue Waterbury serves as a Partner at McDermott + Bull in the New York office where she leads East Coast business development and executive search for the nonprofit sector nationally. Committed to value, transparency, and diversity, her collaborative approach ensures a thorough and successful search process. Sue has an impressive record of success in executive search, working with organizations to recruit leaders to bring about change, growth, and impact. She is a true partner to her clients developing intricate strategies around organizational design, recruitment, and onboarding.