The United States Senate Special Committee on Aging recently hosted a meeting entitled “The Fight Against Alzheimer’s Disease: Are We on Track to a Treatment by 2025?” The meeting featured the personal testimonies of Dr.Ronald Petersen from the Mayo Clinic, a top Alzheimer’s researcher and former member of the national Alzheimer’s Association; B. Smith, a former model, retailer, restaurateur, actor and author who has been diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease; and Dan Gasby, Smith’s husband.
“I’ve been a model and a TV personality, but now I have the most important job,” Smith said to the committee. I’m here because I have Alzheimer’s.”
Gasby talked about his experience one evening when he was among 1,000 fellow advocates from across the nation at the Alzheimer’s Association’s National Dinner. “What I saw there last night was a team,” he said. “We’re at the tipping point. We’re going to push this over.”
Quoting lyrics from rappers Jay-Z and Kanye West, Gasby made a direct appeal to the Committee, asking for federal support for continued Alzheimer’s research: “The ‘pain ain’t cheap’ for the five million of Americans living with Alzheimer’s…We spend so little on this disease that will affect your family or someone you know.”
“If we are going to prevent Alzheimer’s from becoming the defining disease of the next generation, we must invest in research now,” noted Collins. “Not funding research is dumb,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, a supporter of Alzheimer’s legislation, explaining that it will cost a lot of money to society anyway because of all the health care services and products each patient will need in case of developing the disease.
At the 27th annual Alzheimer’s Association Advocacy Forum that coincided with this hearing, the costs associated with the disease were discussed, with estimates revealing that Alzheimer’s disease will cost $226 billion in 2015 and $1.1 trillion by 2050.
Dr. Petersen confirmed, “We cannot wait until a more convenient time to invest in Alzheimer’s disease.” The time to invest is as soon as possible.
Advocates of the Alzheimer’s Association also asked members of Congress to sponsor the bipartisan Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education (HOPE) bill that will improve healthcare for Alzheimer’s patients. The HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act will provide comprehensive care planning services to the recently-diagnosed Medicare beneficiaries and respective caregivers, will also require that their diagnosis are thoroughly documented in each patient’s medical record and will assist in the after diagnosis process.
“Under Senators Collins and McCaskill’s leadership, today’s hearing builds on the momentum to make Alzheimer’s a national priority. We call on Congress to increase funding for Alzheimer’s disease research by $300 million and to support the families currently facing this fatal disease with the HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act. Alzheimer’s is the only leading cause of death among the top 10 in the U.S. without a way to prevent, stop or even slow its progression. We must change this,” concluded Robert Egge from the Alzheimer’s Association.