'This Week' Transcript: O'Donnell and Coons


(UNKNOWN): A big part of this has to do with longevity. Women are still living longer than men.

(UNKNOWN): OK, got to run.

AMANPOUR: Karen Parks (ph) understood her 80-year-old mother losing her memory, but her world came to a screeching halt when her 56-year-old husband Jerry was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's.

K. PARKS (ph): I could see myself sitting there. I thought to myself, "Should I be putting my arm around my husband? Am I hearing this right?" I mean, it just absolutely stops you cold.

AMANPOUR: With his lifelong passion for woodwork and building, Jerry was at the top of his career as a successful construction executive, only to be laid off when his memory began to fail.

J. PARKS (ph): I looked at the doctor. I said, "You know, I had rheumatic fever when I was little kid, and I beat that." And I said, "I'll beat this one, too." (inaudible) and he said, you know -- he said, "You really won't."

AMANPOUR: With two of their four children still at home, they were forced to downsize, and Karen (ph) went back to work as a teacher after a 20-year absence.

K. PARKS (ph): He was my rock. He was the breadwinner. And I'm having to take on some of that. I miss the Jerry and Karen (ph) of before.

J. PARKS (ph): All I hope is that -- that every year that I have that I can be as productive as I can be. And I want to enjoy life. I spent a lot of time focusing on the family and friends and doing the things I want to do.

AMANPOUR: The debilitating disease affects the patient and the caregiver, who's more likely to become depressed, have an increase in heart disease, and six times more susceptible to dementia. These women caregivers suffer at work, too. Many are forced to go part-time or quit altogether. Karen says, as Jerry's condition worsens, she'll have to cut back her hours, and she's not sure how she'll afford the medical bills.

According to "The Shriver Report," the United States will spend an astounding $20 trillion over the next 40 years treating Alzheimer's. Current treatments only slow the symptoms of patients like Jerry (ph), who's in a clinical trial, but he and Karen (ph) both hope the government will provide more resources for families and more funding to find a cure.

But for now, they say, they enjoy living in the moment.

K. PARKS (ph): It's very hard to see your loved one that you want to spend forever with losing parts of things and seeing how frustrated and hurt they feel when they know they can't do something. Jerry (ph) and I decided that we're going to make the best of this, and he has a fabulous attitude.

J. PARKS (ph): (inaudible) grieving, I thought, you know, this gives me a great opportunity. You know, it gives me time to do the things I want to do. I think for us to be upbeat, you know, raises our family and our friends up, too.


AMANPOUR: And joining me now, Maria Shriver, the first lady of California. She's the founder of Woman's Nation, which, with the Alzheimer's Association, produced the report.

Also, Ann O'Leary, executive director of the Berkeley Center on Health, Economic and Family Security at U.C. Berkeley and an expert on women and work.

Thank you both for coming in.

SHRIVER: Thank you for having us.

AMANPOUR: So as always with these cases, it's usually a personal experience that turns you into an activist.

SHRIVER: Exactly.

AMANPOUR: Your father has the disease.

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