Imprisoned in one's own rapidly shrinking brain is how a doctor described it. Alzheimer’s disease is the third leading cause of death in Washington, with over 107,000 currently living with the disease and being cared for by 324,000 unpaid family members. By 2050, those numbers will more than double.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most expensive disease in America, costing more than $236 billion in 2016. Since none of the care provided slows the disease’s progression, precious lives and scarce resources are simply vanishing. To increase annual funding for National Institutes of Health research on Alzheimer’s – currently just below $1 billion – is a crucial investment. The Senate Appropriations Committee has just approved a bill adding $400 million to that figure. The House should do the same.
For those who have been diagnosed early, well informed financial, legal and medical planning drastically improves a dementia patient’s quality of life. For those in end stages, focusing on symptom management and reduction of pain and stress reduces unnecessary hospitalizations, sparing families trauma while saving public funds.
Congressman Denny Heck, Senator Patty Murray, and Senator Maria Cantwell have been very supportive of Alzheimer’s legislation, which is outlined at alz.org/advocate. I thank them all and urge them to add $400 million for Alzheimer’s research and also to cosponsor H.R. 3119/S. 2748, which will increase the availability of palliative care and hospice providers.