Meryl Comer is President and CEO of Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer’s Initiative, which promotes early diagnosis, virtual innovation challenges, m-health technologies and national public service campaigns like Geoffrey Beene’s Rock Stars of Science™.
A co-founder of Women Against Alzheimer’s, she is the recipient of the 2014 Wertheim Global Medical Leadership Award, 2007 Proxmire Award and 2005 Shriver Profiles in Dignity Award. Ms. Comer has provided testimony before Congress on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association and served on the 2008 Alzheimer’s Study Group, charged with presenting a National Strategic Plan to Congress in March 2009. In 2012, she led the formation of the 21st Century BrainTrust® (21CBT), a non-profit partnership to advance mobile health technologies and brain health.
Comer has been the subject of primetime news stories by ABC’s Nightline, and the PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
Slow Dancing with a Stranger: Lost and Found in the Age of Alzheimer’s is a profoundly intimate and unflinching account of Meryl Comer’s husband’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease, one of today’s most pressing–and least-understood–health epidemics.
When Meryl Comer’s husband, Dr. Harvey Gralnick, chief of hematology and oncology at the National Institutes of Health, began forgetting routine things and demonstrating abrupt changes in behavior, doctors were confounded as to what was wrong. Diagnoses ranged from stress and depression to Lyme disease, from pernicious anemia to mad cow’s disease supposedly acquired from a trip to London. Finally, after years of inconclusive tests, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a seemingly impossible disease for a man in his prime.
Comer gave up her television career and for the next two decades cared for Harvey in their home, tending to his every need while watching him regress into an emotionally distant and sometimes violent stranger. “The man I live with is not the man I fell in love with and married,” she writes. “He has slowly been robbed of what we all take for granted–the ability to navigate the mundane activities of daily living: bathing, shaving, dressing, feeding, and using the bathroom. His inner clock is confused and can’t be reset. His eyes are vacant and unaware.”
In Slow Dancing with a Stranger, Comer brings readers face-to-face with Alzheimer’s, detailing the realities, its stressful emotional and fi nancial hardships for families, as well as the limitations of doctors and assisted living and long term care facilities to manage diffi cult patient behaviors. With candor and grace, Comer chronicles her personal experiences–her mistakes, her heartbreaks, her minor victories–to paint an intimate and moving portrait of Alzheimer’s and, in the process, she reveals the truth about the disease and everyone it affects.
One hundred percent of the proceeds from Slow Dancing with a Stranger will support Alzheimer’s research.