Weekly Columns

By the time you finish reading this column, one person will have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Every 66 seconds a patient is told they have this incurable disease. In 2050, that number is expected to increase to one patient every 33 seconds. Alzheimer’s impacts five million people nationwide, including more than 275,000 Arkansans. This disease knows no boundaries, is relentless in its progression and can affect anyone. Right now, there is no way to prevent or cure Alzheimer’s. We must change that.

Alzheimer’s is our nation’s costliest disease. This year, Medicare and Medicaid will spend an estimated $160 billion, or 68 percent, of the total costs caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The other costs fall on the 15.9 million family and friends who provided 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care estimating an economic value of $221.3 billion.

Investing in medical research to fight this disease must be a priority. As a member of the Bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, I’m committed to fighting this disease.

I was proud to support the Senate Appropriations Committee’s plan to increase funding for Alzheimer’s research. The Committee-passed Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill approved an increase of $400 million, 40 percent above last year’s level.

I joined efforts to encourage innovation to fight Alzheimer’s by cosponsoring the Ensuring Useful Research Expenditures is Key for Alzheimer’s (EUREKA) Act. This bill creates an incentive to cure Alzheimer’s through a prize-based challenge. The legislation would authorize prize competitions to fast-track the scientific breakthroughs necessary to developing treatments, preventions and cures for Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

Arkansans regularly meet with me to talk about the importance of Alzheimer’s research. Many of these individuals have personally been impacted by this disease and understand the challenges of taking care of family members with Alzheimer’s. Members of the Arkansas Alzheimer’s Association actively raise awareness, advocate for additional funding for research and promote legislation to help patients their loved ones navigate the process of diagnosis and care. One such bill is the Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education (HOPE) for Alzheimer’s Act.

During a meeting with the Arkansas Alzheimer’s Association earlier this year, members encouraged support for this bill to enhance diagnostic services and help provide patients and their loved ones with comprehensive care planning following the diagnosis of this devastating disease. I signed on as a cosponsor because early detection and the ability to plan for health care services is key to providing a higher quality of care. The HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act is an important step in providing care and comfort to patients, caretakers and loved ones who are impacted by this disease.

June is National Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. I am committed to this cause because we need to find a cure. Continued outreach and research of Alzheimer’s disease is important to the patients, families and the future of our country.