The Forgetting

  • Hosted by David Shenk and Greg O'Brien

The Forgetting: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s is WCAI’s podcast entirely focused on Alzheimer’s disease. The twice-monthly podcast is co-hosted by two well-respected Alzheimer’s experts, David Shenk and Greg O’Brien.

O’Brien was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2009, at age 59. The podcast highlights the friendship of Shenk and O’Brien, while documenting O’Brien’s experience as the disease symptoms become more pronounced.

The conversations are geared toward people with the disease, as well as caregivers, friends and loved ones. In addition to discussing O'Brien's day-to-day life with Alzheimer’s and the tactics he uses to cope, the podcast also features guest interviews.

The earliest conversations date from 2015. Subsequent episodes of the podcast follow O'Brien's journey with the disease to the present day. 

David Shenk is author of The Forgetting: Alzheimer’s, Portrait of an Epidemic
Greg O’Brien is author of On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s.

Executive Producer: Sean Corcoran
Producer: Steve Junker

Listen to all the episodes below on this page.
Or subscribe to the podcast using one of these links:

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The Forgetting: Episode 13

In the finale of “The Forgetting Podcast: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s” Season 1, we learn that there will be a season 2, slated for release in the fall. We also hear from co-hosts Greg O’Brien and David Shenk about the response they’ve received since the podcast was released. Greg talks about his hero, Larry David, who sent Greg a gift. An 85-year-old woman asks Greg a question about his Jeep and probably regrets it. David talks about the recent loss of his own mother to dementia. And Greg has an adventure in an Uber.

This episode was recorded June 7, 2019.

Where’s the Government?

Jun 14, 2019

The Forgetting podcast: Episode 12

Special guest George Vrandenburg talks about his work pushing the federal government to spend more on research. George tells talks about the loss of his wife Trish to Alzheimer’s and how the disease impacted their family. Greg recalls an event in Los Angeles that reinvigorated him in the fight against the disease. Other topics: people need to talk about Alzheimer’s and dementia in order to demystify the disease; people need to look out for caregivers, who could find their own health compromised as they care for loved ones.

George Vrandenburg is chairman and co-founder of the organization UsAgainstAlzheimer's. Find out more about the organization here.

This episode was recorded October 11, 2017.

A Family Diagnosis

May 31, 2019

The Forgetting podcast: Episode 11

Greg reveals that he blacked out twice while going to a business meeting, but he did not tell anyone. David tries to surprise Greg with two mystery guests. The surprise fails. Greg’s two sons, Conner and Brendan O’Brien, join the podcast for an honest discussion about their dad and dementia’s impact on their lives. Greg and his family discuss a difficult conversation they recently had about the family’s financial future.

This episode was recorded on July 27, 2017 at the WGBH Studio at the Boston Public Library Café in front of a live audience.

Moving Between Two Worlds

May 17, 2019

The Forgetting podcast: Episode 10

Greg and David are joined by Gloria Clayborne, the wife and caregiver to jazz icon Junior Mance, who has dementia. Greg talks about going into a rage and stepping out of a cab in Manhattan. Gloria discusses some of the strategies she uses to deal with her husband’s hallucinations and incontinence. David, Greg and Gloria talk about sex, and how some Alzheimer’s patients still have strong sex drives and a desire for intimacy.

This episode was recorded on May 24, 2017.

Finding New Pathways

May 3, 2019

The Forgetting podcast: Episode 9

Greg talks about the death of Trish Vradenburg, who, along with her husband George, helped create US Against Alzheimer’s – one of the most effective advocacy organizations in the Alzheimer’s world. Greg says his mind is telling him to do things he wouldn’t normally do, which makes him worry. David talks about the plan for how long the podcast will go on so that people can get the blunt truth about the disease.

This episode was recorded April 27, 2017.

Realize What's Important

Apr 12, 2019

The Forgetting podcast: Episode 8

Greg loses his friend. Greg gets upset with people who do the “drive by.” An encounter of the 3rd kind. Greg tells a joke about Alzheimer’s, reminding us to keep our senses of humor. A discussion of the disease before symptoms. Greg has advice for his friend as he faces dying.

This episode was recorded April 13, 2017.

Less Judgmental

Mar 29, 2019

The Forgetting podcast: Episode 7

Greg talks about flipping off drivers on the way to the station. David and Greg discuss when it’s appropriate to correct someone with Alzheimer’s, and when it’s be best to just let things go. David surprises Greg by bringing on special guest Lisa Genova, the author of the novel, “Still Alice,” and a close friend of Greg’s. Once again, the conversation turns to suicide, with Lisa offering some valuable context and information. Lisa tells a story about ALS.

This episode was recorded March 16, 2017.

Special guest: Lisa Genova


KEY WORDS: Alzheimers; Dementia; Depression; ALS; Lisa Genova

In a Place Like This

Mar 15, 2019

The Forgetting podcast: Episode 6

Greg talks about caregivers, and how it’s never just one person who has Alzheimer’s, but the whole family. Greg tells a story about being so filled with rage, he crossed a street without caring to even look for cars. Working out at the gym still helps Greg. And David asks Greg about why he continues to talk about “checking out,” and what he means by it.

This episode was recorded February 2, 2017.

Keywords: caregiver; rage; exit strategy; confession.

Without the Filter

Mar 1, 2019

The Forgetting podcast: Episode 5

Greg feels that he's becoming more like Larry David, blurting out his thoughts and feelings. Another problem at airport security: Greg throws a shoe. An outburst at the Harvard Club. Why humor helps. A discussion of Glen Campbell with his wife Kim, who talks about how her faith helped while caring for Glen through his Alzheimer's disease.    

This episode was recorded January 10, 2017.

With special guest Kim Campbell. 

Becoming Grandpa

Jan 28, 2019

The Forgetting podcast: Episode 4

Greg talks about how he often doesn't recognize people he knows. Greg gets upset when his first grandchild is being born, and his older sister sets him straight. Greg gets lost in his hotel. And while giving a speech, Greg senses a woman standing behind him on stage giving him support.

This episode was recorded November 22, 2016.

Keywords: faking it; alone on a bus; caregivers.

The No Fly List

Jan 27, 2019

The Forgetting podcast: Episode 3

David takes away Greg's laptop. Greg talks about ongoing rage issues and how his anger almost put him on the federal no-fly list. Greg says that in some ways Alzheimer's has given him a purpose. Greg no longer has confidence in himself; but he has confidence in his soul and his heart.

This episode was recorded June 1, 2016.

Keywords: pity; being late; 100 bucks.

The Mistaken Kiss

Jan 26, 2019

The Forgetting podcast: Episode 2

Greg talks about a humiliating experience that's becoming more common. He discusses how he tries to conceal his symptoms (what he calls "the train wreck"), because he doesn't want people's sympathy. Greg mistakenly kisses a girl he does not know. And Greg explains to David why he must blurt things out and talk over people when he has a thought.

With special guest Dr. Rudy Tanzi.

This episode was recorded November 20, 2015. 

Keywords: snowflakes; exit strategy; gorgeous girl.


Jan 25, 2019

The Forgetting podcast: Episode 1

In the first episode of The Forgetting, we meet Greg O'Brien and David Shenk. We  hear about Greg's long history with Alzheimer's, including taking care of family members with the disease before his own symptoms came on. Greg's friends joke about him owing them money. And Greg makes a promise to his mother.

With special guest Jed Levine.

This episode was recorded September 10, 2015.

Keywords: rage; humor; hope.