Bruce Schwartz, playwright, producer, children's author and novelist -- most recently of the critically acclaimed psychological thriller, "The Twenty-First Century" -- lost both of his parents to Alzheimer's disease.
As his parents' main caregiver, he witnessed firsthand the heartbreaking effects this devastating disease has on its victims and their loved ones.
"I watched in horror as my parents forgot who I was, then who they were, forgot how to talk and eat, and turned into skeletons I no longer recognized," said Schwartz. "I felt I was in the twilight zone, helpless and alone, which sent me spiraling into a deep depression for many years."
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive disorder that, over time, destroys a person's memory and, consequently, his or her ability to do the most simple, everyday tasks. After years of watching his parents' mental and physical functions deteriorate, Schwartz is on a crusade to help other families living through the same ordeal.
"Alzheimer's is absolutely the worst disease anyone can imagine, and more and more cases are being diagnosed every year," Schwartz said. "If we all help in this drive, and ask the same of our friends and family, we will all win in helping eliminate this threat to our lives."
More than 4.5 million Americans have the disease, according to the Alzheimer's Association. By 2050, the number of Americans who will die from the disease will reach 16 million if nothing is done. The average lifetime cost of care for a victim's family is a staggering $170,000.
"Buying a copy of 'The Twenty-First Century,' which NPR called 'the best thriller of the year so far,' may one day save the life of someone you love or know," Schwartz said of his mission in life. "This disease and its effects can last 10 to 20 years, as happened to President Reagan. No one wants anyone to suffer like that."
Of the royalties that Schwartz has been donating to the Alzheimer's Association, half is being given to the national headquarters for research and the other half is going to each state to directly help the victims and their families.
"If you believe in miracles, miracles will happen," Schwartz said. "It's time we create one."