Mulgrew On Alzheimer's and Aging

By Michelle
November 10, 2005 - 7:12 PM

Kate Mulgrew (Janeway) traveled to Colorado last week to speak at the AWARE (Alzheimer's Women's Auxiliary for Research and Education) 6th annual "Memories Lost & Found" luncheon, speaking frankly about her life at 50 and her experiences watching her mother's decline from Alzheimer's disease.

"Alzheimer's is not a disease so much as it is a tragedy," Mulgrew said in a transcript at Totally Kate!, explaining that after telling her mother a story, her mother looked at her and said, "I like you, you're funny, but I don't know who you are."

Mulgrew reflected frankly on the difficulties of turning fifty, from her husband Tim Hagan's recent heart attack to hot flashes and coping with the death of her father. Her mother's condition, however, she finds far more painful. "Death comes with aching slowness and leaves, in its wake, utter devastation," she observed. "You cannot explain the curious mixture of rage and frustration, you are too ashamed to admit to your own selfishness and you are far too good and noble a daughter to whisper to yourself that, perhaps, those pills might have been the best idea."

"If you are lucky, like me, and have a modicum of celebrity, you can lend your name to fundraising efforts or make the occasional well-meaning speech on behalf of science and research," she added. "But if you are like the thousands, no - the hundreds of thousands of others who have no recourse to help, no understanding of the disease, and nowhere to turn, it must be living hell." She told a story about trying to care for her own mother and her great gratitude toward her mother's caretaker.

Mulgrew was also interviewed by CBS-4 Denver (also courtesy Totally Kate!), where she said, "Humor is the only solution to life's miseries. Because as you know, they're multiple. And they're tough." She called her laughter "sinful...because you're laughing at the expense of someone who they themselves can no longer laugh", but added that otherwise she would be crying. "We have to fight harder to get this vaccine FDA approved. We have to fill the coffers for research. We must be more ardent and more diligent in the pursuit of this solution."

When she got the role on Voyager, Mulgrew recalled, her mother said, "'What do they do? Aren't they in space?'" To Joan Mulgrew, said her daughter, Star Trek"was a cartoon. And a source of infinite laughter for the entire household."

Now, she added, it is as if her mother is already gone - something many families with Alzheimer's must cope with. "By the time they're finally dead, the whole family's a fractured mess. So...that's why we're gathered here today - to find ways to help each other through this."

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