In 2015, there are more than five million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, including 6,400 in Alaska. In addition, there are 15.7 million Americans caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, including 33,000 caregivers in Alaska. This debilitating disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death in the top 10 in America that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed.
Having watched my mother and three of her sisters battle Alzheimer’s before passing away, I know that the impact of this disease is devastating. The experience of watching Alzheimer’s rob loved ones of their ability to communicate, recall treasured memories, follow daily routines and recognize those they love is immensely painful.
In addition to the human toll, Alzheimer’s takes a financial toll, costing an estimated $226 billion in 2015. The New England Journal of Medicine has called Alzheimer’s the most expensive disease in the country, and Alzheimer’s is expected to cost the nation more than $1.1 trillion over the next generation. These costs include a five-fold increase in government spending under Medicare and Medicaid and a nearly five-fold increase in out-of pocket spending. Nearly one in every five Medicare dollars spent today is on people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In 2050, it will be one in every three dollars.
In order to change the trajectory of Alzheimer’s, we must take bold steps now toward finding the needed treatments, prevention and one day, a cure. The urgency is clear. Alzheimer’s can’t wait. Please contact Sen. Dan Sullivan and Sen. Lisa Murkowski and ask them to support the proposed $350 million increase in funding for Alzheimer’s research for fiscal year 2016.