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Psychiatry Newsletter - A Double Dose of Help

Hopkins BrainWise-Spring 2013

A Double Dose of Help

Date: April 15, 2013

When Charles Ellzey worked some 30 years as a ship’s engineer for the Alcoa and then the Central Gulf Steamship Lines, Johns Hopkins never crossed his path. It wasn’t until the sister of his wife Helen showed signs of dementia that Ellzey found himself in East Baltimore regularly in 1983, “for diagnosis and whatever help Hopkins could give us.”

Of course, no cure exists for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). “But,” says Ellzey, “the moral support alone that we got during the hard job of caring for my wife’s sister made us feel that we weren’t out in the forest by ourselves.” During one later visit, a grateful Ellzey asked how he might help the cause. It wasn’t long before he’d signed on as a healthy control in a long-term study, the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center’s Longitudinal Evaluation.

Over the next 30 years, this helpful, “resilient man” as the study’s director, Constantine Lyketsos, dubs him, has come to Johns Hopkins annually for a battery of tests—part of the research. Those at risk of AD are followed to shed light on the illness’s course and biology. And controls like Ellzey allow crucial comparisons with normal aging. “I always get a kick out of coming,” he says.

But Ellzey didn’t stop there. When Helen passed away in 2007, a generous bequest soon after her death honored his beloved wife while it advanced research. And this year, with a charitable gift annuity, Ellzey—now 85—extends both the support and honor.