April 2, 2012

The tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease wears many faces, and it is complex and often unpredictable, as evidenced by the recent sad news that Charles D. Snelling, a former chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, reportedly took his life after taking that of his wife, who suffered from Alzheimer’s [“Snelling kills self, ailing wife,” Metro, March 30]. Anyone who has lived with this terrible disease understands the pain and stress it can produce in even the strongest souls.

Many of us know someone who is affected by Alzheimer’s. What some might not know is that we’re at a critical point in confronting this disease. More than 5.4 millionAmericans suffered from Alzheimer’s in 2011, and the cost of caring for them was more than $183 billion, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. These statistics are a reflection of the increase in the number of aging people in our population.

However, there is momentum in research and in creating a national plan to fight Alzheimer’s. My husband had Alzheimer’s for 10 years, so I know to some extent what the Snelling family experienced. I urge Americans to become informed about the tremendous opportunity we have at this time to confront Alzheimer’s so that we can drastically reduce the number of families who are robbed of their loved ones by this devastating disease.

Suzanne Carbone, Silver Spring

The writer is a member of the Maryland Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Commission.

Charles D. and Adrienne Snelling were outstanding contributors to society on so many levels. (Charles was the chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority until the end of 2011). They were from Allentown, Pa., where I grew up, and they were very good friends with my family. I have wonderful memories of them.

The news of their death is tragic. It appears that Charles took Adrienne’s life and then shot himself because they had reached a point where life was no longer fulfilling or worth living. [“Pair discussed how lives should end,” front page, March 31]

I can only imagine what they were going through as Adrienne’s Alzheimer’s disease grew worse, and I have no doubt that they believed they made the correct decision for themselves. However, I hope that in the future our health-care system will allow people to work directly with their doctors to bring about a peaceful and humane death when the time is appropriate. It is what our loved ones deserve.

Patricia Harrity Ragan, Arlington

Continue reading