About the Project
The Forgetting: A Portrait of Alzheimer's will be a two hour high-profile, high-impact special aimed at helping Americans better understand and cope with the fearsome disease of Alzheimer's. The cornerstone of the project is a 90-minute documentary , broadcast nationally on PBS, based on David Shenk's extraordinary best-selling book on Alzheimer's, The Forgetting Alzheimers: Portrait of an Epidemic. Like Shenk's book, the documentary will be a dramatic, compassionate, all-encompassing look at Alzheimer's -- weaving together the history and biology of the disease, the intense real-world experiences of Alzheimer's patients and caregivers, and the race to find a cure.
Much more than a television program, The Forgetting is a multi-faceted project aimed at helping people in direct ways. An informative half-hour special hosted by award-winning actor David Hyde Pierce will follow the documentary. This show, ALZHEIMER’S: The Help You Need will bring together a panel of experts to provide authoritative answers to commonly-asked questions and direct viewers to organizations and resources that can offer help and support. Hyde Pierce, who watched both his grandfather and his father suffer with Alzheimer’s, knows first hand the challenges of dealing with the disease and the sense of personal vulnerability. “With each year that passes, my fear grows - my fear that the disease process that destroyed their memories, and ultimately their lives, has begun developing in my own brain. My fear grows not just for myself, but also for my generation - the 14 million baby boomers who will get Alzheimer's disease if we don't find a way to beat this dreadful disease.”
A powerful new Web site, launching soon at www.pbs.org/theforgetting, will be a central hub for Alzheimer's information and support -- providing advice, resources and chances for Alzheimer's families to share emotions and insights. A downloadable Viewers Guide will provide practical information and answers to questions. And local PBS stations will hold a wealth of outreach and educational events around the broadcast, enriched and supported by a variety of grass roots organizations including the local chapters of the Alzheimer's Association.
There has never been a more critical time for a project like this. Alzheimer's is on the verge of becoming an epidemic. Beginning in 2011, the first Baby Boomers will turn 65. Because Alzheimer's is related to age, this demographic shift could push Alzheimer's to what one expert terms "plague proportions." So many people will fall victim to the disease, with so many billions of dollars needed to care for them, that unless a cure is found soon, Alzheimer's will become the largest public health problem in America and a defining aspect of the world's future. One of the key purposes of The Forgetting is to provide a powerful "wake-up call" to our country about the potential national impact of Alzheimer's -- and be a catalyst for individuals, health professionals, and government leaders to better prepare and meet the challenges of this critical period ahead.
Alzheimer's is also a uniquely personal experience. A 2002 survey found 57% of Americans fearful about getting the disease. And for the families of Alzheimer's victims, the disease is often debilitating -- driving caregivers, as one critic put it, "into exhaustion, depression and sometimes bankruptcy." The Forgetting will reach out to all Americans concerned about Alzheimer's -- providing broader awareness and understanding of the disease and providing immediate, practical support to Alzheimer's families and caregivers. Just as importantly, it will do so for years to come, through PBS rebroadcasts and lasting resources in video, DVD and on the Web. At this critical time in our nation's struggle with Alzheimer's, The Forgetting promises to provide millions of Americans with insight and context, help and hope.