Alzheimer’s disaster is no longer ’emerging’

Tomorrow on World Alzheimer’s Day, the Alzheimer’s Association recognizes the efforts of the Obama Administration for bringing stakeholders to the table to begin an important dialogue on how best to address the Alzheimer epidemic. The meeting will include representatives of the Alzheimer community, policymakers from across the federal government, Alzheimer researchers, people with Alzheimer’s and care providers to exchange objectives and strategies on how to overcome the growing Alzheimer epidemic. Harry Johns, the President and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association®, will be among the participants in the meeting.

The meeting will come on the heels of the delivery of more than 100,000 petition signatures to members of Congress from Johns and 40 Alzheimer researchers and scientists who tomorrow morning will complete the Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Ride on Capitol Hill. The Ride, which began on July 17 in San Francisco, was led by scientist Bruce Lamb, Ph.D, an Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, and the Alzheimer’s Association. The ride included 55 scientists from around the country who cycled 4,500 miles to call attention to both the lack of a national strategy to address Alzheimer’s and the chronic underinvestment in Alzheimer research.

The effort of scientists to call attention to the grave public health threat of Alzheimer’s coincides with the release of the World Alzheimer Report 2010 from Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), the most up to date and comprehensive global estimate of the economic and societal impact of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Echoing sentiments from the 100,000 petition signers, Johns plans to stress the fact there is no substitute for a coordinated national strategy to systematically address the grave public health threat of Alzheimer’s to the country. Johns’ message to attendees will be clear: With the first wave of baby boomers turning 65 next year and advancing into the age of greater risk for developing the disease, the Alzheimer’s disaster is no longer “emerging.” It is upon us and government must act decisively to address it.

The Association recognizes there have been government initiatives in recent years that have provided some assistance to the growing numbers of families with Alzheimer’s, including some provisions in the Affordable Care Act. Those contributions are appreciated, yet none of them have the potential to address the fundamental drivers of the Alzheimer epidemic. Today there is no treatment that stops or even slows the progression of Alzheimer’s.

The rising prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease should be a wake-up call to the nation. In addition to the emotional, physical and financial toll Alzheimer’s disease has on families; it will also have a significant impact on U.S. government spending in the years ahead. Total costs of care for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will soar from $172 billion in 2010 to more than $1 trillion in 2050, with Medicare costs increasing more than 600 percent, from $88 billion today to $627 billion in 2050. During the same time period, Medicaid costs will soar 400 percent, from $34 billion to $178 billion.

“The American public understands we have a real disaster on our hands – more than 100,000 citizens signed a petition attesting to this fact,” says Johns. “An estimated 5.3 million Americans living today with Alzheimer’s – they have known it personally; their 11 million caregivers understand as well and certainly the 78 million baby boomers whose risk of developing the disease increases with each passing day have growing understanding,” continues Johns. “What we need is for the nation’s leaders to prove they understand what’s at stake. It is no longer acceptable to simply hope for the best. We need immediate, meaningful action and we are hopeful that this meeting will trigger such a response. Looking back to this meeting, that is how we will judge its value.”

Ultimately solving the Alzheimer epidemic – with its far reaching impact on families, the economy, Medicare, and Medicaid – depends on having a comprehensive, coordinated national strategy that addresses both the threat and the underinvestment in research. This is why the Alzheimer’s Association is urging passage and enactment of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (S. 3036/H.R. 4689). The legislation, offered by Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representatives Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Christopher Smith (R-NJ), would create a National Alzheimer’s Project Office and an inter-agency Advisory Council responsible for developing a national plan to overcome the Alzheimer epidemic. The new office would lead the public health response to the epidemic through a more focused, coordinated, comprehensive and intentional approach.

The Association trusts that the White House meeting will prove to be an important step forward. As the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research, the Association will continue to seek opportunities to convey to the nation’s leaders the scale of the crisis, the need for a strategy and a research investment that signals an understanding of that scale. The Association will also continue to represent to Capitol Hill, to the White House and in Congressional districts the growing multitude of families with Alzheimer’s and dementia until a world without Alzheimer’s is a reality.

SOURCE Alzheimer’s Association

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