She was a graceful and electric dancer. Her mother was in the Ziegfeld Follies, but wanted her daughter to act; her father, a renowned dancer, wanted her to dance. They both got their way.
Margarita Carmen Cansino was born in Brooklyn in 1918. In 1937, feeling that her name typecast her, she dyed her brown tresses a blazing red and became Rita Hayworth. She was on her way to fame, fortune and a life in the sun.
In 1987 Rita Hayworth died of complications from Alzheimer’s. But it was an undiagnosed Alzheimer’s. Rita appeared unkempt in public, slurred her words and couldn’t remember lines in a script. She was accused of being an alcoholic. The former Sex Goddess was dismissed as a pathetic has-been. Three years after her death, doctors diagnosed the true cause.
Even today, Alzheimer’s goes undiagnosed far too often as smart people with symptoms hide out and families join in denial. It’s time for all of us to come out from under the shadows and take this disease head on.
Presently, there are 5.4 million victims with the disease. And then there are the caregivers –mostly aging spouses and economically stressed children – providing what amounts to $210 billion in unpaid care, and suffering from incomparable exhaustion and relentless economic fear. They are facing down their own fiscal cliff. And yet we are cutting funds for medical research at a time when the dollars should be directed to research to find a cure.
Rita Hayworth was one of the lucky ones. In the last years of her life, her daughter, the wonderful Princess Yasmin Aga Kahn, took her into her apartment and nursed her mother until her death. Rita was only 68-years-old.