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Celebrities and Alzheimer’s Disease Exhibition

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by JESSICA WILLIAMS
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Feisty is an understatement, she was a fireball. 

Watching her in the All-American sitcom show, The Golden Girls, you never knew what would come out of Sophia Petrillo’s mouth. As she (well into her 80s) lived with her adult daughter, Dorothy and two other older women in their shared, multi-bedroom Miami home on the tv series. 

“I always wondered why blessings wore disguises. If I were a blessing, I’d run around naked,” Sophia would spout off. 
In a cooking scene, she said, “If this sauce was a person, I’d get naked and make love to it.” 

Or she’d share a few words of wisdom, remarking, 

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“No matter how bad things get, remember these sage words: you’re old, you sag, get over it!”

Sophia Petrillo was played by one of America’s most-famous celebrity mothers, Estelle Getty. 

Estelle was born in New York City in 1923. She died in 2008, from a diagnosis of Dementia. Although her life was undoubtedly filled with fame (and her personality brought laughter to millions of people), she still suffered from an incurable disease that contributed to her death. Her portrait, along with 23 other famous American celebrities and artists will be on display at The East Branch Hernando County Library on Saturday, July 20th, 2019. They all died of causes relating to either Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia. The location is: East Branch Hernando County Library at 6457 Windmere Road in Brooksville, Florida.

It is referred to as The Great American Alzheimer’s Photo Exhibit. The purpose of the presentation is to educate viewers that no one is immune to diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or Dementia. These incurable diagnoses are currently affecting over 6 million Americans, making it critical to educate as many people as possible.  The exhibit will be on display for 6 months in Hernando County. 

Per national statistics (www.alz.org), the number of people aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease will reach 580,000 by year 2020. Those same reports suggest that over 7,000 Floridians die from Alzheimer’s disease each year, making it Florida’s 6th leading cause of death. 

Coping with Dementia points out that 31% of Hernando County residents are over the age of 65, whereas the state average of persons over 65 is just 17%.  With nearly double the number of individuals over 65, Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia is a big issue for Hernando County’s population.

In addition to the exhibit, Coping with Dementia, LLC will be hosting a Q&A (Question and Answer) discussion at the event on Saturday, July 20th, 2019 between 10am-2pm, at East Branch Hernando County Library. It is open to the public, with free admission. 

Coping with Dementia, LLC is a multi-county organization which provides free Dementia workshops, Dementia training and certification for businesses. They also offer individual and family counseling along with support groups for caregivers, public education and outreach. 

I recently spoke with President/CEO of Coping with Dementia LLC, Debbie Selsavage. She is passionate about educating the community on the realistic expectations of patients with these diseases. She also educates people on behaviors that are indicators of Alzheimer’s, Dementia, the different types of diagnoses and available treatments that exist. 

During the program on July 20, she will also be discussing emergency resources available to the community when in a crisis situation involving a person who may suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia. 

“It’s very important and critical for folks to be educated about Alzheimer’s and Dementia,” she said. 
Alongside Ms. Selsavage, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office is scheduled to be present, informing attending Hernando County residents about their new programs they have adopted to assist deputies and officers with better identifying specific behaviors and indicators of Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients in the community. 

In addition, Kathleen Winters with Alzheimer’s Family Organization will also be present to assist with questions and discussion. 

Alzheimer’s Family Organization: provides support services and educational programs to caregivers and families of those with Alzheimer’s Disease and/or Dementia. Their service areas include: Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, and Sumter counties (alzheimersfamily.org). 

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