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As our population ages, more and more of us are touched by an incurable robber of mind and memory called Alzheimer's. A mental blank might foretell the onset of this devastating erasure of the record of life's experiences that loved ones must cope with alongside the affected while they slowly drift away. Often an unspoken topic in years past, Alzheimer's disease is now a frequent subject in conversations outside the medical circle. And it is found in family homes, elder care and memory facilities, and Prime Timers chapters everywhere.

Last evening, I attended a powerful portrayal of the devastating effects of Alzheimer's in a play written by fellow Prime Timer, Bernard Taylor. In The Last Waltz, Bernard's characters play-out the challenges of a husband and wife's day to day coping with the disease's impact that usually goes unseen by those not directly impacted by Alzheimer's. It aptly shows that memory loss can be a friend to those who are suffering the disease as they often do not recognize or remember the changes occurring in their brain. Caregivers and loved ones are not so blessed.

The Last Waltz is dedicated to another San Antonio Prime Timer, Ron Casola, who is currently battling early-onset Alzheimer's and openly serves as an advocate for Alzheimer's research and care. Ron recently gave up his directorship of The Live Oak Singers (LGBT and Friends Chorus) as Alzheimer's has impacted his ability to retain the numerous details required to produce a show. His 45-year career in vocal coaching, chorus direction, musical production, and personal performances has ended, but a new challenge of Alzheimer's education has begun. Bernard also advocates for Alzheimer's research by donating 25% of his royalties for The Last Waltz to Alzheimer's research in the name of Ron Casola. Bernard is an accomplished composer, playwright, and producer with awards for services to music and the performing arts by the Victoria College of Music & Art and others. He is establishing a theater in San Antonio to showcase plays with gay themes or characters. His plays have been produced over 100 times worldwide. Bernard's next play tells the story of Oscar Wilde in The Last Days of Oscar Wilde, set in Paris where he was exiled. These are two special Prime Timers!

Has Alzheimer's impacted your family or Prime Timer chapter? In San Antonio Prime Timers, at least two members and their partners are dealing with the end-state stages of this disease. Others have passed from our ranks. Our Care and Concern Committee recognizes that the greater victim of Alzheimer's is often the partner who performs caregiver functions. In many cases, Alzheimer's changes the personality of the patient, requiring loved ones to remember the partner that was. On a personal note, my family has been blessed. Our 94- year-old mother, Mary Sue, has not lost her bubbly personality as Alzheimer's has robbed her of short-term memory and blessed her with no recognition that she is so ill. Most families or partners are not so fortunate.

We salute Prime Timers, Bernard Taylor, Ron Casola, and all others who are making those around them more aware of Alzheimer's and its effects on us. Furthering research and education on this devastating disease is a noble effort. Remember the ancillary victims, learn more about Alzheimer's, and perhaps support fund raising efforts near you to find a cure and provide care!

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