Actress Julianne Moore has already won a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for her performance as a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s in “Still Alice”. But Moore didn’t do it on her own; she received key advice from real-life Alzheimer’s patient Sandy Oltz.
Oltz was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s when she was 47 years old. She had a high-stress job as a nurse then and was raising two teenage sons.
“There is some family history, but I never really thought that it would be me,” Oltz said. “We tried menopause, we tried brain tumor, we thought stroke, seizure. It took about a year to come to Alzheimer’s.”
The Alzheimer’s Association connected Oltz with the film crew of “Still Alice.” She told the cast and crew about her own experiences while coping with Alzheimer’s. She says she has come to accept her diagnosis, but still worries about how it affects her sons: “I worry… they’re never going to know how smart I really was. They see their mom as kind of funny because I have to be.”
Oltz hopes that “Still Alice” will teach more people that Alzheimer’s does not just affect the elderly. “There’s a stigma that they’re grandmas and grandpas, and their life has been lived and they’re done,” she said. “I pray [the film] breaks the stigma.”
200,000 people have early onset Alzheimer’s in the U.S. If you would like learn more about Alzheimer’s, visit the Brain Matters blog and consider registering for one of our clinical research opportunities.