ALZHEIMER’S CAN’T WAIT!
In April I joined a record number of Alzheimer’s advocates from all 50 states in Washington D.C. to advocate in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. On the final day of the Forum we met with more than 440 congressional offices to deliver our message:
“Alzheimer’s Can’t Wait!”
The event received local and national media coverage. Thousands of people have taken action by calling Congress and signing our petition.
In less than a week, 14 additional Members of Congress agreed to co-sponsor the HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act. I brag about my contribution.
I was part of the Texas delegation and personally visited the offices of two senators and eight congressmen and women. The thrill of having one of them agree on the spot to support our initiatives is indescribable. My feet still hurt, but it was worth it.
THE MOST IMPORTANT FACT ABOUT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
If we do not find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, it will destroy America. It will kill our economy, devastate family life, and destroy the American Quality of Life. I am not exaggerating.
The average Medicare costs for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are three times higher than for those without these conditions. Medicaid spending is 19 times higher.
Unless a real cure is found, the costs of Alzheimer’s in 2050 are estimated to total $1.1 trillion. Costs to Medicare and Medicaid will increase nearly 500 percent.
Here are the facts:
An estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease; by 2050 up to 16 million will have the disease
- One in eight older Americans has Alzheimer’s
- Nearly half of those 85 and older have Alzheimer’s
- Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only one without a way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression
- Over 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s or other dementias
- Payments for care are estimated to be $200 billion in 2012, including $140 billion to Medicare and Medicaid
- At least 800,000 Americans with Alzheimer’s disease live alone
- Every 68 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer’s
- A senior with diabetes and Alzheimer’s costs Medicare 81% more than a senior who has diabetes but no Alzheimer’s
- A senior who has cancer and Alzheimer’s costs Medicare 53% more than a senior with cancer but no Alzheimer’s
GRASS ROOTS ADVOCACY FOR ALZHEIMER’S RESEARCH
The national publicity highlighted guest speakers such as Kathleen Sebelius, Frank Luntz, Meredith Vieira, Jane Seymour, Maria Shriver, and Pat Summitt. I was more impressed by the number of unknowns who paid their own way, often accompanied by a friend or family member with Alzheimer’s. An articulate 16-year-old attended every session with his 49-year-old father, who has the disease.
Alzheimer’s runs in families and everyone there knew it. They were advocating for themselves, their families, and their communities. Everyone had a personal story.
TRAGEDY OF THE CAREGIVERS
The most heartbreaking stories were those of the unpaid caregivers. In 2011, 15.2 million family members and friends provided 17.4 billion hours of unpaid Alzheimer’s and dementia care–valued at $210.5 billion.
Many caregivers leave their jobs because long-term-care is not covered by Medicare. The caregivers deplete their own funds to care for a loved one at home.
The stress levels of caregivers are extremely high. Due to the physical and emotional toll on their own health, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers had $8.7 billion in additional health care costs in 2011. Caregivers often die before the person with Alzheimer’s.
WE MUST FIND A CURE
Last night I had dinner with a couple dealing with Alzheimer’s. The husband was diagnosed about five years ago. The wife continues to work but is struggling. They had planned on attending the Forum until the husband landed in the hospital with kidney failure. She said, “We thought we had a plan and would be able to handle whatever came along. This last blow makes us realize how unprepared we are for the future.”
The only way to solve the crisis caused by this terrible disease is to find a cure–and we are very late.