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Voices of Arizona: Leonard's Alzheimer's story

By Kathy Ritchie
Published: Thursday, April 20, 2023 - 3:37pm
Updated: Friday, April 21, 2023 - 8:25am

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KJZZ brings you news from throughout the state. The most important stories impact everyday Arizonans. Voices of Arizona bring you the real people behind the headlines. 

Leonard and Mark
Kathy Ritchie/KJZZ
Leonard Chayrez and Mark Garrity have been together for more than 20. Now, as they navigate this next chapter, they're determined to do it together and to share Leonard's story in hopes of raising awareness.

Three years before Leonard Chayrez of Phoenix was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, he was, to put it bluntly, "I was ready to be committed," he said.

His care partner, Mark Garrity echoed his comment. He was not himself — at all. 

"There was something missing," he said. "There was just, there was just something missing. And it was not a comfortable feeling within my skin and it scared me. It was frightening."

He went to doctors hoping to get answers.

"They were telling me that it was stress," he said. Chayrez felt dismissed. 

And at home, things were falling apart. Finally, in 2020, Chayrez got the diagnosis. He was 54.

"I was so thrilled that I got the diagnosis," he said. "I'm not searching for what it is. I'm not seeking I'm not. I know what I'm up against now."

He's also up against time. Early-onset Alzheimer’s typically progresses much faster. And right now, the only treatment that might work for Chayrez is Leqembi, which could slow the decline. But it’s costly and currently not covered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, known as CMS.

Though CMS said it would provide “broader coverage” if the Food and Drug Administration fully approves Leqembi in early July.

Voices of Arizona Aging Health + Medicine