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Thoughtful Gifts That Will Have an Impact in the Future and Today

Jan Hanson and Marie Curtis

Jan Hanson and her mother, Marie Curtis

It was a year after her father passed away that Jan Hanson began to notice some changes in her 70-year-old mother, Marie Curtis—an unusual number of gifts for Christmas, memory problems, and then a heartbreaking realization.

"She forgot my birthday. When your own mom forgets your birthday, you know something's wrong," Jan says. During the next several years, there was a painful downward slide for Jan's mother. She even forgot they had gone on a recent trip to Egypt.

"Mom married young and didn't have much of a formal education, but she was one of the best-read people I've ever known. She wanted to educate herself. She could have done anything—and she loved being a Sunday School teacher—but there weren't many outlets for her as a 1950s housewife," says Jan, a Stanford Law School alum who had a successful career in real estate and public finance law in Portland and San Francisco before her retirement in 2014. Her mother passed away in 1987.

Once Jan retired, she started thinking about her estate planning. She investigated Alzheimer's disease—the sixth-leading cause of death that now affects one in three people over the age of 85—and how she could have the most impact against the disease.

Jan explored various organizations involved with Alzheimer's caregiving and research. Then a friend pointed her to Stanford Medicine, where a number of the world's top neurologists and neuroscientists are focused on the crisis. They are investigating the brain's underlying mechanisms, creating groundbreaking neuroimaging technologies, and translating their insights into new therapies. Stanford was recently selected as an Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, a competitive and prestigious designation made by the National Institutes of Health.

Jan took the unusual step of contacting Frank Longo, MD, PhD, chair of Stanford's Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences and a leading expert in the field, to ask him how a gift from her estate could be put to best use.

Although Dr. Longo's busy schedule prevents him from personally replying to all inquiries he receives, Jan was fortunate to receive an immediate response from him. "He's good at communicating and speaking to the level of his audience. I felt very comfortable," says Jan.

Dr. Longo shared with her the innovative work being done at Stanford. He explained that her gift could fund early-stage research that, if it shows promise, could lead to exponential funding.

Jan worked with Stanford's Medical Center Development Office of Planned Giving to create a gift in her estate for Alzheimer's disease research that allows for flexibility—to be used where it is most needed. She appreciated the thoughtful and attentive assistance the Planned Giving office provided.

"When I made my decision to go with Stanford, it gave me a better feeling about the meaning of my life. It allows me to contribute to this very worthy cause while making a gift to my alma mater. To the extent I've succeeded in my legal career, I owe that to Stanford. This gift brings it full circle.

"My goal was to fund pure research. While caregiving and lobbying are very worthy activities, I'd like to focus on efforts to cure this awful disease. I decided to put my eggs in the basket of finding a cure."

Beyond her estate gift, Jan decided to make an additional end-of-year gift to support Alzheimer's disease research at Stanford now. "Giving can occur at any time, and in any amount," says Jan.

At Stanford Medicine, we see good reason for hope and believe that we can change the course of this disease, saving the memories, minds, and lives of our loved ones.

Planned gifts like the one that Jan made to support Alzheimer's research can be lifechanging for patients with incurable medical conditions. Make a difference by making yours today. Contact the Office of Planned Giving at 650.723.6560 or pgmed@stanford.edu to get started.

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