Tallahassee Man Celebrates National Award for Alzheimer's Advocacy

By: Julie Montanaro
April 5, 2016

A Tallahassee man joins the likes of country music star Glenn Campbell and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Sandy Halperin recently received a national award for advocating on behalf of people with Alzheimer's.

He was diagnosed six years ago and since then, he has given the nation an up close look at what it's like to live with Alzheimer's.

"I just lost my train of thought there, but..."

Sandy Halperin's journey into Alzheimer's has been chronicled - in powerful and sometimes painful detail - by CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

"I often feel like in the front of my head that there is cotton stuck in there," he told Gupta during one interview.

The two received national recognition at the Great Minds Gala last month - the prestigious Proxmire Award. In the past, the award has gone to Sandra Day O'Connor and Glenn Campbell.

"I'm just Sandy. There are thousands of advocates...thousands. I'm one of them," Sandy Halperin said Tuesday before addressing a crowd at Westminster Oaks.

Halperin is not entirely comfortable with all the accolades. He says he invited the cameras in so the world can see what it's like to live with Alzheimer's and he's used that time in front of the camera lens to try to help others with the disease.

"I speak to the issue. Yes, there must be research but at the same time don't neglect those that are living with ... and their caregivers," Halperin said.

"You know, the diagnosis is not a death sentence -especially right away," Halperin's daughter Karen Cyphers said. "There's a whole lot of living that goes on between that point of diagnosis and the image you see or the image that people have in their minds of the Alzheimer's patient really isn't cognitive at all."

Halperin was honored by friends, family and neighbors at Westminster Oaks in Tallahassee Tuesday.

The head of Florida's Department of Elder Affairs says Halperin and his family's willingness to share their story resonates with families everywhere.

"He's actually offering hope because he is showing people how he's living with this and dealing with this," Elder Affairs Secretary Sam Verghese said.

Halperin spoke at that hometown celebration this afternoon. He says he has to write down his comments because he doesn't always remember them.

He's very open about it. He says he wants to reduce the stigma of Alzheimer's and encourage people to talk about it just like they talk about hips, knees, and other diseases.

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