Still Alice co-producer, Elizabeth Gelfand Stearns, caught up with Alzheimer’s Australia at the recent Alzheimer’s Disease International and Alzheimer’s Australia conference in Perth.
With a close family connection, both her mother and maternal grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease, Elizabeth found her role in Still Alice’s production influenced by her own personal experience as well as her advocating role as chair of The Judy Fund – a fund set up in honour of her mum Judy Gelfand.
“Still Alice has been an amazing experience from the start and one that was very personal for me,” she said.
“My mother was diagnosed at 62 and died at 70, she was an only child and my grandmother also died of the disease. So when my mother was diagnosed it was very devastating for our family. We had seen what Alzheimer’s looked like and it was hard to imagine that we were going to experience it with my mum.”
So far the Judy Fund has raised more than $5.4 million in the US for research and public policy. There are more than 2100 donors across America who fund the Alzheimer’s Associations Ambassador Program, which sees volunteer ambassadors work with legislators at the state and federal level in the US to address care, research and cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Having met the author of the book Still Alice, Lisa Genova in Washington Elizabeth was taken by the story of Still Alice.
“When I read the book I thought – this is my story, this could be all our stories,” she said.
Along with executive producer Maria Shriver, Elizabeth set out to use the film Still Alice to create public awareness. A campaign called “The Women behind Still Alice” was created to engage 1 million women in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease and to raise $5 million for women’s brain research.