It’s the inheritance no one would want: a debilitating disease that steals you of your memories, robs you of your speech, your cognition, your ability to function, and eventually takes your life. This inheritance – a genetic mutation resulting in early-onset Alzheimer’s – devastated generations of the DeMoe family in rural North Dakota. Journalist Niki Kapsambelis spent years with the family and shares their story, as well as the history and current issues with Alzheimer’s research in The Inheritance.
Galen “Moe” DeMoe was a hardworking, well-respected oil field worker and father of six living in western North Dakota when he started showing symptoms of dementia. Even though he was only forty-three, he couldn’t remember phone numbers, or how to use the coffee maker, or how to play golf. His personality changed for the worse, as well, and he became irrational and violent towards the people he loved the most. Soon he couldn’t do the job he took such pride in and eventually was committed to North Dakota State Hospital. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Moe would never return home and would die in a nursing home, a shell of the person he once was, when he was fifty-eight.
Sadly, Moe DeMoe left his children a deadly inheritance: five of his six children would carry the genetic mutation that determined that they, too, would get early-onset Alzheimer’s, as would their children and grandchildren if they carried the mutation. Remarkably, the DeMoe family courageously and selflessly participated in a worldwide Alzheimer’s study at the University of Pittsburgh in the hopes that future generations might be spared this terrible disease. The Inheritance is not only a compelling account of the history and future of Alzheimer’s research but also a genuinely moving human story of one family caught in the grip of a devastating disease.