Weekly Columns

Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's. This irreversible brain disease slowly destroys one’s memory, cognitive thinking capability and ability to perform daily life skills. While nearly two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients are women, this disease can affect anyone. 

Legendary Arkansas football coach Frank Broyles knows first-hand the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s. After his wife Barbara lost her battle with Alzheimer’s in 2004, Coach Broyles made it his life’s mission to advocate for a cure and educate Americans on caring for loved ones suffering with Alzheimer’s. He wrote the "Coach Broyles' Playbook for Alzheimer's Caregivers" based on his family’s experience caring for Barbara. His personal experience of how he first found out about Barbara’s illness, his family’s role as a caregiver and the impact her death has had on his life has been beneficial on a number of fronts, from raising awareness and education to securing funding to develop a cure. His book was translated into numerous languages and distributed across the country. 

Millions of families can identify with Coach Broyles’ story. More than five million Americans are living with the disease and millions more are caregivers for their loved ones. There is a genuine concern that as the population ages, this will become a real epidemic. The current rate of growth of Alzheimer’s threatens our ability to find a cure, treat and care for these patients. As the population ages, the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s after age 65 may more than triple from 5 million to as many as 16 million. 

This is why we recognize November as National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month. Congress took important steps to addressing this crisis by approving the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA).  This requires the creation of a national strategic plan to address the rapidly escalating Alzheimer’s disease crisis. 

As a member of the Bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, I am committed to fighting for continued funding for Alzheimer’s research. That’s why I cosponsored legislation that would require the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to submit an annual budget to meet the goal of preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. This would allow researchers and scientists to directly tell Congress what resources are needed to accomplish NAPA’s goals. 

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 like Coach Broyles, understand the challenges of taking care of family members with Alzheimer’s. Members of the Arkansas Alzheimer’s Association actively raise awareness and advocate for additional funding for research. 

Like these Arkansans, I believe that we must make finding a cure for Alzheimer’s a national priority. One study suggests that research leading to treatments that delay the onset of Alzheimer’s would lead to an annual savings of more than $400 billion by 2050. Continued outreach and research of Alzheimer’s disease is important to the future of families and our country. I remain committed to fight against this disease and look forward to continuing my work on important legislation that will help make research, treatments and, ultimately, a cure available.