According to the Alzheimer’s Association, today there are an estimated 5.4 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, including as many as 80,000 Kentuckians. This number is expected to grow to as many as 97,000 within the commonwealth by the year 2025, if we don’t do all we can to stop this disease today.
Alzheimer’s disease is not a Republican or a Democratic issue. It affects all of us. And that is why I was more encouraged than ever when a unanimous, bipartisan Congress passed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act. This project spurred the creation of the first-ever National Alzheimer’s Plan for the United States.
With more than 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day, the cost of Alzheimer’s care and services will continue to rise, straining our overwhelmed health care system and threatening to bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid. Congress must illustrate their understanding of the financial impact of Alzheimer’s disease and come together once again, to commit the necessary resources to begin to change the trajectory of the disease. The Senate has prioritized the National Alzheimer’s Plan by including and additional $100 million for research, education, care and support. It is vitally important that Congress include these resources in fiscal year 2014.
I have personally seen the devastation Alzheimer’s disease can cause. Not only have I worked for over 16 years professionally helping those who have had Alzheimer’s, but I personally watched my grandmother suffer through its devastation. I watched as we lost her mentally over years of progression, and then I watched as we lost her physically from the disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the only disease which results in two deaths — the death of disconnection, when your loved one no longer remembers you, and then physical death, which ensues when the body can no longer compensate for the mental decline.
We are at a critical juncture and now have a roadmap and strategy for the first time to fight Alzheimer’s. We now urge President Obama and Congress to put aside damaging partisan politics and focus on finding common ground that will enable us to marshal the resources, expertise and innovation needed to change the course of the disease for the millions living with Alzheimer’s today, and the millions who will face it in the future.
Please contact Congressman Hal Rogers, Sen. Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul today. Ask them to provide the funding necessary to support the National Alzheimer’s Plan through Alzheimer’s research, education, outreach and support activities. Also, visit alz.org/napa to learn how you can become involved with the fight against Alzheimer’s.
Greg Gilbert, RN