Traveling around Washington state, I’ve heard from many families about the devastating effect Alzheimer’s has on their lives. Each individual story is heartbreaking, and unfortunately each story is one of many such heartbreaks being caused by this terrible disease. A few years ago this disease was the 3rd leading cause of death in Washington, and today there are an estimated 100,000 seniors in Washington state living with Alzheimer’s.
For those fighting this disease, the stakes are intensely personal. They are fighting to hold on to cherished memories with children and grandchildren, and a feeling of control over their daily lives. Of course, Alzheimer’s isn’t just hard on those fighting the disease personally, it also impacts the lives of family members, friends, and caregivers worried about their loved one’s safety and grappling with the day-to-day challenges of the disease.
Finding out a loved one has Alzheimer’s can be a scary, confusing time. We need real change that can help communities deal with the many challenges Alzheimer’s brings.
Last year I was proud to cosponsor a bipartisan bill that helped provide some of that change. As of 2017, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are required to cover patient-centered, comprehensive Alzheimer’s care planning services. This change means that Alzheimer’s patients on Medicare can get help understanding possible medications, testing, safety measures, caregiving options, and planning to manage their disease.
In addition to helping patients and families manage this disease, we must continue fighting it and searching for treatments to delay the onset and improve the quality of life for those living with Alzheimer’s. And, of course, we must keep fighting for a cure. In 2017, as the Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, and related agencies, I fought to increase Alzheimer’s research funding at the National Institutes of Health by $400 million. This year, I’m working with members on both sides of the aisle to increase it by a further $400 million to bring the total annual Alzheimer’s research budget above $1.8 billion
I am also proud of the work I have done as Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Educations, Labor, and Pensions Committee. We passed the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act in 2016, which provided much needed investment for innovative research such as the BRAIN and Precision Medicine Initiatives. Funding for biomedical research was a key part of this Act and it will hopefully bring us one step closer to better treatment options tomorrow.
Still, there is so much more we can do today. We need to provide caregivers with more support in managing this disease. We need to equip the best scientific minds with the resources they need to explore revolutionary ideas and innovative treatments.
I will continue fighting in Congress, with the knowledge that the real fight against Alzheimer’s continues to be waged by patients and families impacted by it.
I’m confident I will hear more of these important stories firsthand, and encourage those facing this disease to keep sharing them. They have been a personal motivation for me, and have inspired real change to stem the tide in the fight against Alzheimer’s.
Connect with legislators from across Washington state at 2018 Advocacy Day. Register to join Sen. Murray in the fight against Alzheimer’s!