Victor Garber lost both his parents to Alzheimer's. It was a long and difficult journey for family members.
“My father was in London, Ontario,” he recalls. “My brother became the primary caregiver, along with my father's wife. My mother lived in Los Angeles, so I was more involved in her progression.”
As a caregiver, Garber developed a deeper appreciation for others who've helped loved ones fight the disease. “You basically have to give up your life, and that's difficult for so many reasons. Alzheimer's rips people apart and, in some ways, is as difficult for the primary caregiver as it is the person going through it.”
Garber recalls how music comforted his ailing mother as he watched her slowly slip away. Caring for her was instinctive and emotional. “She became so helpless and so dependent. I was fortunate because I had money to put her in a facility that was extremely comfortable, and someone was always with her when I was working. I'm not the typical Alzheimer's caregiver by any stretch of the imagination. That's why I have such empathy for people who have to quit their jobs because they can't leave their husband or wife alone.”
Garber is committed to using his fame to shed light on the issue, whenever possible. “On ‘Alias,’ everybody on the show became an advocate. Jennifer [Garner], Michael [Vartan], Ron [Rifkin] and Bradley [Cooper] all knew my mom. Celebrity does draw people in. I will take advantage of it and do whatever I can, when I'm asked.
“It's very hard for me to see friends going through it,” he adds. “Both my parents are long gone, so it's not in my daily life, except for the statistics, and that's scary.”
Creating a network of support
When tending to an Alzheimer’s patient gets to be too much, Garber says asking for help is crucial to survival. "Go to any organization in your area. Reach out to family and friends. You can't do it alone. You have to sometimes put yourself first, which is really hard to do. “Take care of yourself, because you have to function. Make sure you have support in place, in any way that you can.”
Garber adds, “We need a cure. It's about the scientists, the technicians and other people working in the industry, and where the money has to go. That has to happen.”
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Victor Garber Is Raising His Voice to Support Alzheimer’s Caregivers