Sunday, January 9, 2011

President Signs National Alzheimer’s Project Act

Alzheimer’s Advocates have cause to celebrate with the presidential endorsement of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA). Why is this Act so important and why have advocates put so much effort into a national coordinated effort to staunch the Alzheimer’s tsunami headed our way?

Aging baby boomers. Age is the No. 1 risk factor of Alzheimer’s and statically speaking the aging baby boomers drastically increase those at risk for Alzheimer’s. For the next 19 years, Boomers turn 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day! By 2050 the care cost of Americans with Alzheimer’s will skyrocket from the current $172 billion to $1 trillion.

What is the purpose of NAPA? According to my 2010 Alzheimer’s Action Summit Advocate’s Guide, NAPA will—

• Launch a campaign within the federal government to overcome Alzheimer’s disease.

• Establish an inter-agency Advocacy Council to create a coordinated National Alzheimer’s Disease Plan

• Comprehensively address the federal government’s efforts on Alzheimer’s research, care, institutional services, and home- and community-based programs.

• Accelerate the development of treatments that would prevent, halt or reverse the course of Alzheimer’s disease.

• Decrease health disparities by ensuring ethnic and racial populations at higher risk for Alzheimer’s receive much-needed care and services

In a time when we worry about the national debt, finding effective treatment or a cure for Alzheimer’s disease is more important than ever. For each person with Alzheimer’s, Medicaid costs are 9 times higher and Medicare payments are 3 times higher.

I have been an advocate for more than a decade. I don’t suppose I would have ever bothered to put so much time, effort, money, and passion into such a cause if I hadn’t personally seen the destruction caused by dementia. When Jim was diagnosed with an Alzheimer’s type of dementia, it changed both our lives, and the lives of our extended family and network of friends. Living with dementia is something our minds cannot comprehend if we don’t have that personal involvement.

The thought of having a 50/50 chance of developing Alzheimer’s for those who live to be 85 should be cause for concern for anyone who hopes to live a long, healthy life. Other rarer types of dementia show up in much younger people. Jim was 49 when he developed corticobasal degeneration. Younger people develop frontotemporal dementia and can develop Alzheimer’s, especially the hereditary form.

Alzheimer’s should concern all of us. It’s not just a disease of the elderly that involves some forgetfulness. It’s not a joke for late-night TV. It is a devastating, fatal brain disorder that is financially and emotionally draining for the entire family. It is a time of ongoing loss and sadness and a disease I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

NAPA means this country has finally recognized that Alzheimer’s needs aggressive action tempered by a comprehensive plan. Unless we use adequate resources to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, we face our future with trepidation.

The Alzheimer’s Association credits 300,000 advocates for passing NAPA. More than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s. Think how much more progress we could make if each person with Alzheimer’s had one family member who became an advocate. If that were the case, the tsunami would be millions of people concentrating their efforts on finding a cure for Alzheimer’s now, not at some unforeseeable time in the future.

Copyright Jan. 2011, L. S. Fisher
Alzheimer’s Action Summit 2010 “My Experience, Our Voice” Advocate’s Guide
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