Alzheimer’s disease is the only leading cause of death that cannot be prevented, cured, or even slowed. This matters deeply to the more than five million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, including 110,000 in Washington.
As someone who helped care for a mother with Alzheimer’s and who now misses her every day, I understand firsthand the impact this disease has on families across America. Even prior to her death in October of 2014, we started to lose Mom little by little at first but then more rapidly and with bigger deficits as the disease progressed. Alzheimer’s doesn’t just affect memories; physical health is greatly compromised as the brain loses its ability to communicate effectively with other organs.
So many families are and will be affected with loss from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. My aunt now has Alzheimer’s as well, making her the fourth on my mother’s side to have some form of dementia. Like many others my age, I wonder if this disease is what will take me from my family as well. My own research into this disease has shown that more research is exactly what is needed as there are still so many unknowns regarding this costly disease.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2018, caring for individuals living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias will cost $277 billion – including $186 billion in direct costs to Medicare and Medicaid.
Though it was unable to bring the hoped for change in my mom’s life, I am grateful that since 2011 Congress has quadrupled Alzheimer’s research funding at the National Institutes of Health. This effort has been led by Washington’s own Senator Patty Murray in her role on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Most recently, she got the committee to approve a 21 percent increase in 2019 funding. Hopefully this will make a big difference for families who receive an Alzheimer’s diagnosis in the future.
Please join me in thanking Senator Murray for being a champion in the fight to end Alzheimer’s. I hope Senator Maria Cantwell and Congressman Dave Reichert will continue to follow her lead.