Seth Rogen speaks candidly about his relationship with Alzheimer's disease and what lawmakers need to do about Alzheimer's education in America. As a bonus, his testimony is pretty funny.
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Sen. Tom Harkin: Now, we'll turn to Mr. Seth Rogen. Mr. Rogen, welcome and please proceed.
Seth Rogen: Thank you very much for having me, Mr. Chairman, ranking member Moran, and the members of the subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today and for the opportunity for me to be called an expert in something because that's cool. I don’t know if you know who I am at all. You told me you never saw "Knocked Up," Chairman, so, that’s a little insulting.
Sen. Tom Harkin: I want the record to note.
Seth Rogen: Very important, guys.
Sen. Tom Harkin: I will wager this as the first time in any congressional hearing in history that the words knocked up have ever [been used].
Seth Rogen: You're not going to like the rest of this then. First, I should answer the question I assume many of you are asking. Yes, I'm aware this has nothing to do with the legalization of marijuana. In fact, if you can believe it, this concerns something that I find even more important.
I started dating my wife Lauren nine years ago when her mother was almost 54 years old. The first time I met her parents, being the mensch that I am, I was excited to spend time with them and make Lauren think I was the type of guy she should continue dating.
It was this trip, the first time I met my now mother-in-law, that Lauren first admitted to herself and then to me that something was off with her mother. I guess the clues were, unfortunately, easy to spot. Since both of Lauren's mother's parents had Alzheimer's disease.
Soon after this trip, at 55 years old, Lauren's mother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. Now, at this point, my impression of Alzheimer's was probably what, I assume, most people's impression is. I thought it was something only really, really, old people got and I thought the way the disease primarily showed itself was in the form of forgotten keys, wearing mismatched shoes, and being asked the same question over and over.
This period, which was the only way I had seen Alzheimer's displayed in movies or television, lasted a few years for Lauren's mom. After that, however, is when I saw the real ugly truth of the disease. After forgetting who she and her loved ones were, my mother-in-law, a teacher for 35 years, then forgot how to speak, feed herself, dress herself, and go the bathroom herself, all by the age of 60.
Lauren's father and a team of caregivers dedicate their lives to letting my mother-in-law be as comfortable as she can be. They would love to do more but can't because, as you’ve heard, unlike any of the other top 10 causes of death in America, there's no way prevent, cure, or even slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease.
Another thing I didn’t realize until I was personally affected was the shame and stigma associated with the disease. It was before I was born, but I'm told of a time when cancer had a stigma that people were ashamed by.
Celebrities and other public figures that were stricken would hide rather than be voices of hope for people in similar situations. Although it's turning, this is currently where we are largely at with Alzheimer's disease it seems like.
It is because of this lack of hope and shameful stigma that my wife, some friends, and myself decided to actually try and do something to change the situation. We started Hilarity for Charity. Hilarity for Charity is a fund we have as a part of the Alzheimer's Association to raise money to help families struggling with Alzheimer's and support cutting edge research.
That's right, the situation is so dire that it caused me, a lazy, self-involved, generally self medicated man-child, to start an entire charity organization. It was through this that we felt we weren’t just complaining there was nothing to be done, but actively taking steps to do something.
Instead of being disappointed the young people were so misinformed about the reality of the disease, we've stated to educate them. We recently started a college program that allows university students to hold their own Hilarity for Charity events. In the months since it started, 18 schools nationwide had signed up to hold events.
The fact that we actually got college students to stop playing video games and volunteer their time is a huge accomplishment, especially considering both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 came out this year. I'm sure these people know what I'm talking about.
I came here today for a few reasons. One, I'm a huge "House of Cards" fan. Just marathoned the whole thing. Had to be here. Two, is to say people need more help. I've personally seen the massive amount of financial strain this disease causes. If the American people ever decide to reject genitalia driven comedy, I would no longer be able to afford it. Please don’t.
Therefore, I can't begin to imagine how people with more limited incomes are dealing with this. As you’ve also heard studies shows that all Alzheimer's and related dementia is the most costly condition in the United States. Yes, it's more costly than heart disease, in a country where for $1.29 you can get a taco made out of Doritos. They are delicious, but they are not healthy.
While deaths from other major diseases like heart disease, HIV, and strokes continue to decline, deaths from Alzheimer's have increased almost 70% in the last 15 years. Over 5 million Americans, at this rate, in 35 years as many in 16 million will have the disease.
The third reason I'm here, simply, is to show people that they are not alone. So few people share their personal stories, so few people have something to relate to. I know that if me and my wife saw someone like me talking about this it would probably make us feel a little less alone.
Americans whisper the word Alzheimer's because their government whispers the word Alzheimer's. Although a whisper is better than the silence that the Alzheimer's community has been facing for decades, it’s still not enough. It needs to be yelled and screamed to the point that it finally gets the attention and the funding that it deserves and needs.
I dream of a day when my charity is no longer necessary and I can go back to being a lazy, self-involved man-child I was meant to be. people look to their government for hope. I ask that when it comes to Alzheimer's disease you continue to take more steps to provide some more.
I would like to thank the committee again for the opportunity to share my story and to voice my wholehearted support for the continuing work that pursues a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Thank you very much.
Sen. Tom Harkin: Thank you, Mr. Rogen, that was great. That was very, very good. Thank you, thank you. Although, I'm sorry you had to.