Maria Shriver: Living with Alzheimer's in the Family

Calif. first lady Maria Shriver gives inside look at Alzheimer's in HBO film.

ByABC News via GMA logo
May 6, 2009, 3:58 PM

May 6, 2009 — -- Her face may be recognizable to millions of Americans, but when California first lady Maria Shriver visits her father, he has no idea who she is.

Diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease six years ago, Sargent Shriver has motivated his daughter to get involved with an upcoming four-part HBO documentary, "The Alzheimer's Project."

"I think you have to recalibrate yourself every single time you see your father, and you have to introduce yourself to him," Shriver told "Good Morning America" today.

When she walks into his room, Shriver must tell her father that she is his daughter and that her name is Maria.

"He'll go, 'Oh my goodness, you are?'" she said.

She has become so passionate about the effects of Alzheimer's that she even testified before Congress. Afterward, she said her office was inundated with letters from people who relate to what's happening to her family and her father.

"At the age of 93, my dad still goes to Mass every day. And believe it or not, he still remembers the Hail Mary. But he doesn't remember me, Maria," she said before Congress last month. "I'd be lying if I didn't admit that still makes me cry."

Shriver said she wants to tell her father what's going on in her life but can only support him and make him comfortable.

She said she's realized that all she can do is love and accept him for who he is now, not who he was or who she wants him to be.

"And that's a pretty good lesson for life in general," she said.

Shriver, who was the co-executive producer on "The Alzheimer's Project," which begins airing on May 10, said she hopes the documentary will reach a broad audience in tackling topics like memory loss, living with Alzheimer's disease and the science of finding a cure.