By Debbie Stabenow
This month, as we recognize Alzheimer’s Action Day, I stand with the 20 million Americans who are impacted each day by Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s affects a growing number of Americans, including one out of eight seniors. Currently there are more than 5 million people living with Alzheimer’s and almost 15 million people serving as their caregivers across our country. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 180,000 people from every corner of our state are living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is both heartbreaking and deadly. It is the sixth leading cause of death in America. It is also the only top 10 cause of death with no treatment that can prevent, cure, or slow the development of the disease.
This disease impacts each Alzheimer’s patient’s entire family. Alzheimer’s not only devastates families, but could devastate our economy as well. Currently, the total cost of care in the United States for Alzheimer’s is $183 billion and future projections show costs continuing to rise to $1.1 trillion by the middle of the century.
That is why it is so important that we support critical health research that can ultimately lead us toward a cure. It is also why I supported the National Alzheimer’s Project Act passed last year, which helped coordinate efforts to combat Alzheimer’s to make them more efficient and effective.
The gravest challenge facing us right now, however, is that many elderly people suffering with this terrible illness do not get diagnosed or know all of the treatment options available to them. Our nation needs bold action to combat this growing epidemic. That is why this spring I introduced bipartisan legislation—the Health, Outcomes, Planning and Education for Alzheimer’s Act—to help combat Alzheimer’s disease and support those suffering with this devastating illness.
The bill will help doctors detect Alzheimer’s disease in their patients earlier, and ensure patients and families coping with the disease are better equipped with knowledge of treatment options and support programs available to them. I partnered closely with the Alzheimer’s Association, America’s leading voluntary health organization for Alzheimer’s, on this bill.
Right now, many patients with Alzheimer’s warning signs currently do not undergo proper testing. A recent study indicates only 19 percent of people over age 65 with dementia had a diagnosis recorded in their medical record. The HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act would help patients have better access to comprehensive diagnostic testing to increase the likelihood that the disease can be detected early.
This legislation will not only improve the quality of life for people living with Alzheimer’s disease, but also for their families. Once diagnosed, the bill would also ensure that both patients and their families had access to a care planning session with their doctor to help them understand the diagnosis, treatment options available, and what medical and community services and supports are available.
As we continue to support research to find a cure, we must make sure that individuals and their families have access to the critical care and services that can improve their quality of life today. The HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act takes a critical step toward helping millions of Americans by encouraging diagnosis of Alzheimer’s so it can be treated effectively and compassionately.
I stand with Alzheimer’s advocates in raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease, and will continue standing by their side as we work for better prevention and a cure for this terrible disease. To get in involved or to support the HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act, you can go to the Alzheimer’s Association website for World Alzheimer’s Month at www.alz.org/wam.
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