Sandra Day O’Connor, Advocate for Alzheimer’s Patients and Caregivers

By | December 5, 2023

Team Gracestone paused on Friday to reflect on the life of our favorite U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor.

Raised on a cattle farm in southwestern Arizona, Justice O’Connor was the first female justice on the Supreme Court.

But we’re more interested in Mrs. O’Connor than Justice O’Connor.

Some will remember that she retired from the Supreme Court in 2007 at the age of 75, while still in her legal prime and able to serve.

Fewer will remember why she retired – to take care of her husband, John, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Within six months of her retirement, the O’Connor family reported that John no longer understood that Sandra was his wife, illustrating the devastating impact of memory loss and cognitive difficulties associated with the disease.

“Alzheimer’s is a family disease,” she told a special U.S.Senate committee on aging in 2008. The country needs to get “deadly serious about this deadly disease … I submit to you that until you have actually stared Alzheimer’s in the face, you cannot truly understand the deep sense of frustration, fear, helplessness and grief that accompany it.”

In a statement issued earlier today, the Alzheimer’s Association mourned her loss. “Driven by her experience of caring for her husband as he battled Alzheimer’s, she served as a member of the Alzheimer’s Study Group in 2009, ensuring caregivers and those living with dementia were represented. [She] leaves behind a legacy as a transparent leader using her voice to inspire action and change for all those impacted by Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.”

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is a challenging experience, and Sandra handled this hurdle with true grit and determination. The embodiment of reliance, Sandra helped her husband battle Alzheimer’s as passionately as she fought to uphold the justice system of this great nation.

A self-proclaimed “cowgirl from the Arizona desert,” she was independent and industrious. This Southwestern ranch girl held the balance of power on the court for almost two decades and was crowned one of the most powerful women in the country. All rise for the Queen of the Court.