Forgetting Alzheimer’s

I’ll never forget the first time I witnessed Alzheimer’s.

My grandmother had been diagnosed while she and my grandfather resided in Florida.  I hadn’t seen the two of them for some time, so when I heard that they were coming to visit my family in CA, I couldn’t wait to see their smiling faces.  The excitement, however, quickly came to a halt a few minutes after their arrival.  Suffice it to say that my grandmother was no longer the same;  her words were jumbled and it was clear that she no longer recognized my face.  Her eyes were still a beautiful light blue, but no longer sparkled as they once did.  It would be a few short years until she passed.

And while this anecdote is far from uplifting, I write these words to explain what it feels like to have a loved one with Alzheimer’s – where every lost memory and empty glance hurts.  A majority of Americans can relate.  In fact, a new report reveals that among the top tears of family caregivers is that Alzheimer’s will take away their loved one’s ability to communicate.

Presently, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death and only U.S. cause that cannot be prevented, slowed or cured.  There are about 5.4 million Americans that are affected by the disease, and it is predicted that 16 million Americans will be diagnosed by 2050.  The effects will be noticed by loved ones, family members and more.

“Alzheimer’s will also be a financial albatross to the nation’s health care system, surpassing $1 trillion in costs annually by mid-century unless the trajectory of the disease is changed,” MarketWatch reports.

And thus, the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) was born: A national plan that consists of 43,000 participants from all 50 states to ensure that the federal government does not forget about Alzheimer’s.  According to the new act, the law will require an annual update,  recommendations for priority actions to improve health outcomes for those affected by Alzheimer’s and lower costs to families, the creation of an Alzheimer’s specific council and annual evaluations of federally funded efforts in research.

“Now is the time to make a substantial investment in research: $1.4 billion at a minimum in the president’s proposed FY 2013 budget — an increase of at least $300 million from FY 2011 — for the National Institute on Aging into the prevention, treatment and cure of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as up the focus on clinical research, such as safety issues, non-pharmacological behavioral interventions and end-of-life care,”  The Huffington Post suggests.

To learn more about the growing issue of Alzheimers and how you can help, visit the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America at http://www.alzfdn.org/.  No longer can we allow Alzheimer’s to take a backseat to cancer or other life threatening diseases, and must work together to make it a national issue.

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