As anyone who has cared for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease knows, we have waited. We have waited for that initial diagnosis of what is wrong — why are they having trouble with common tasks? We have waited for as long as we could with them continuing to live in their own house. We have waited for the end of the story that gets forgotten halfway through telling it.
I had a grandmother who had Alzheimer’s disease. I was too young before she became sick to have ever really met her. From the stories I have heard, she had a sharp sense of humor. As for me, there will always be those times that I can remember when I saw her, and she knew who I was. That’s what I waited for.
This past week, instead of focusing on what makes them different, Reps. Keith Ellison and Erik Paulsen came together to host a joint event on an issue they agree on: finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. The simple fact that both Democrats and Republicans support this equally is telling. Alzheimer’s disease is not rare; one out of every nine Americans over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s. One out of every three over the age of 85 has it.
This year alone, we will spend over $200 billion to care for those with Alzheimer’s. This cost of care is expected to increase 5.25 percent every year, leading to us spending $1.2 trillion annually on this by 2050. We cannot sustain this increase in cost year over year. “Demographics show this is going to be a health crisis. That’s the reality,” Paulsen said.
We will spend $500 million on research for Alzheimer’s and other dementias this year. That equates to 0.25 percent of all medical dollars spent on Alzheimer’s being dedicated toward finding a cure. We can do better. We need to do better.
As summed up by Rep. Ellison, “If we spend money now, we will save money down the road.” For our long-term future, we need to increase spending on Alzheimer’s research. We can’t wait. We’ve already been waiting long enough.
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