Alzheimer's disease affects 4.5 million people in the United States, a number which has doubled since 1980. In a Gallup Poll, 1 in 10 Americans said they had someone with the disease in their family. The disease is growing and unless there is a cure or something discovered to slow the progression soon, it is estimated that anywhere from 11 -16 million people will have the disease in the U.S. by the year 2050.
Sacrifices of the Heart stars Melissa Gilbert as Kate Weston, a young, successful attorney in Los Angeles who moved to the city from the family farm in the country. She has been basically estranged from her father Thane (Ken Howard), who still runs the farm along with her brother Ryan (Cyril O'Reilly). But when Thayne's health declines and he begins showing sings of memory loss, she is summoned home by Ryan to check out the situation.
Kate soon realizes that her father is declining. He is slowly losing his past. After the diagnosis of Alzheimer's, she knows that it is only a matter of time until the father she knows will cease to be. This is a chilling reality and a situation Kate agonizes over. She has blamed her father for so many things, including the suicide of her mother when she was a little girl. But through recent conversations with him her life gets put into perspective and old ideas are replaced by realities. She discovers that he was not the bad guy after all.
Thane fights the fact that he is ill, but soon must accept it, as must Kate and Ryan. With this difficult reality of life, Kate takes a leave of absence from her job to move back to the farm and spend the last bit of quality time she can with her father.
This is a sensitively portrayed story to which so many people will relate. With the disease on the rise, it is a harsh reality that someone we know will soon be stricken with Alzheimer's. Melissa Gilbert and Ken Howard are effective at creating characters that get at the heart of this situation. The story was written by Patti Davis, the daughter of President Ronald Reagan who died from Alzheimer's. Ms. Davis gives the film a first-hand touch making the reality that much more insightful as she had to confront and deal with the same situation as Kate.
Gilbert says, "When I finished reading it, and I was so impressed by all the layers and all the stuff going on, and then I read the cover page. Of course, a lightening bolt, well, hello." It was then she realized who wrote the story. "She certainly knows what she speaks of. She wrote a beautiful script, a really beautiful script."
Sacrifices of the Heart premieres March 3 on The Hallmark Channel.