As one of the thousands of Alzheimer’s advocates who went to Washington, D.C. and Sacramento this last spring, I am thrilled to say our efforts paid off. On July 14, 2016, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved an additional $350 million for Alzheimer’s research. We applaud this bipartisan action of the House Appropriations Committee to approve a significant increase in Alzheimer’s research funding at the National Institutes of Health. For years, federal Alzheimer’s disease research has lagged far behind the $2 billion a year necessary for research in prevention and finding effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. The people facing and fighting this disease now have new hope.
I have a very personal connection with Alzheimer’s disease, since my dad was formally diagnosed almost three years ago. My mother and I spent probably eight years trying to navigate through sickness, treatments, testing, and programs — all to realize it was to no avail. There was no direction or treatment available for what we always were led to believe was something else. My dad’s diagnosis didn’t come until eight years later and that far down the road. It was mentally and physically taxing and draining for my mother and heartbreaking for me to watch them go through it all. Once my father had a diagnosis, it was almost a relief.
I know I can’t help my father now, but I can make a difference for our generation and those to come by being an advocate and speaking out for the necessary funding dollars needed to fight this disease. I never thought I could make a difference, but I was wrong. Every member of our Congress has a voice and a vote. It is very important to have these discussions with them and with those efforts, comes reward. We are moving closer to a cure.
In another major milestone, this July in Washington, D.C., the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has now made it easier for physicians to provide critical care and support services for millions of Americans living with Alzheimer’s. With rapidly growing bipartisan support in Congress for the Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education (HOPE) for Alzheimer’s Act, CMS has proposed to begin paying for cognitive and functional assessment and care planning for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments. We are urging CMS to implement this much-needed benefit, but not stop here! With over 5.4 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s, it is extremely important to continue fighting for funding, research, and care support.
As an individual impacted by this disease, I would like to thank Congressmember Lois Capps for her commitment to Alzheimer’s issues. I am proud that our member of Congress has supported legislation that is critical to fighting Alzheimer’s disease.
I invite you to join the millions of advocates working tirelessly to make Alzheimer’s disease a national priority. Stand up for the families in our community by visiting ALZ.org to become an advocate and help beat Alzheimer’s.
Leigh Cashman is an advocate with the Alzheimer’s Association California Central Chapter.