I had a dream last night.
Actor and comedian Seth Rogen was working on some projects with Long-Term Living. Excitedly, I pulled him aside and showed him the printout of news headlines about his recent Senate testimony related to Alzheimer's disease that had been sitting on my desk for the past few weeks.
"I was going to write a blog about this, but it would be so much better if you did," I told him. As he and I talked about the potential column, our enthusiasm grew and the project became more involved.
Rogen's real visit to Capitol Hill Feb. 26 didn’t go as well as this imagined conversation. The star of films such as “Knocked Up,” “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express” was one of five people appearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Services (just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?) to advocate for increased funding for Alzheimer’s disease research. Rogen shared his personal experiences related to Alzheimer’s disease: his mother-in-law had received a diagnosis while in her mid-50s, and by the age of 60, she no longer could speak or perform activities of daily living.
“I saw the real ugly truth of the disease, a side I literally had never been exposed to even by hearsay or dramatization,” he testified, adding that he also has witnessed the helplessness and financial strain felt by caregivers. To help ease those nightmares, he and his wife, Lauren Miller, have started Hilarity for Charity, an Alzheimer’s Association-related organization raising awareness and research funding among younger people.
But Rogen witnessed an ugly truth of government on the day of his testimony. During the first part of the committee meeting, he later relayed to Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” two committee members appeared to be dozing and subsequently asked questions that had been answered during testimony. By the time it was Rogen’s turn to speak, he said, the subcommittee’s only remaining members were its chairman and ranking member.
“It seems like these people don’t care,” he told the TV show host. “That’s the direct message they’re giving.” He repeated those sentiments elsewhere and via his Twitter account that day and following days.
As someone who works in long-term care, you know the statistics. Every 67 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's. By 2050, the number of Americans aged at least 65 years who have the disease may grow from five million to as many as 16 million. Those and other statistics were cited during the Senate committee meeting, too.
“All those empty seats are senators who are not prioritizing Alzheimer's. Unless more noise is made, it won't change,” read one of Rogen's tweets. So he is among those making noise.