All too often, I hear heartbreaking stories from my constituents of the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s disease. I hear of patients struggling to cope with its symptoms, families who can’t pay for the care that their loved ones need, and the countless lives that we lose to this horrific disease.
These stories are a constant reminder that this country faces a crisis we cannot afford to ignore.
The numbers are staggering. More than 5 million seniors have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and by 2025 this will grow to 7.1 million. By 2050, the cost of caring for people living with Alzheimer’s is estimated to be over a trillion dollars.
The burden that families bear is enormous. Every year, Americans provide nearly 18 billion hours of unpaid care to their loved ones living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. This exacts a terrible toll on families, both emotionally and financially.
Although the challenges we face are immense, we have made some progress.
Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that Medicare will, for the first time in history, cover the costs of advance care planning. This long overdue change will ensure that seniors have access to care that is consistent with their wishes, and it will help alleviate the emotional burden that Alzheimer’s places on families. And, with the largest increase in National Institute of Health funding in 12 years, Congress has included a historic $350 million increase in Alzheimer’s disease research funding that will advance critical research for a cure.
But we must do far more in our fight against Alzheimer’s.
As a physician, I recognize the essential role that the National Institutes of Health play in advancing scientific progress in this country. It is critical that Congress work in a bipartisan manner to continue to increase funding for the NIH and protect its budget from senseless sequestration cuts. And, as we move forward, we must continue to support innovative programs like the President’s BRAIN Initiative, which offers hope in our fight against neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
As advocates for patients, never forget that you have a voice. Your stories and your experiences make a real difference in the fight against this terrible disease. I encourage you all to continue to share your brave stories with me and with your peers. Together we will find new ways to understand, treat and, one day, cure Alzheimer’s.