Having just participated in the Alzheimer’s Association Advocacy Forum in Washington DC during the first week of April and then traveled with almost 200 advocates to Springfield on April 14 for the Association’s annual state lobby day, I want to say something that may surprise many readers: when citizens come together around shared goals and use their voices, our elected leaders actually listen.

While dissatisfaction with government right now is understandably strong, the recent history of success that Alzheimer’s advocates have achieved at both the state and federal level demonstrates this clearly and provides a roadmap to people of all political persuasions for getting things done. You can join us in the fight to End Alzheimer’s by visiting http://www.alz.org/advocacy/take-action.asp.

At least 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, 220,000 of whom reside in Illinois, and someone develops the disease every 66 seconds. It also is the sixth-most common cause of death and the only one among the top-ten for which no prevention, cure or treatment exists. These trends are already putting enormous strain on our country’s finances and on millions of families who have to helplessly watch loved ones slowly slip away.

The federal government spent more than $160 billion caring for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in 2015 and as the ‘baby boomer’ generation ages, this will balloon to more than $1 trillion per year by 2050 (in today’s dollars). Considering that no preventative measures or disease-modifying treatments exist, every one of these dollars is spent simply managing someone’s descent into the end stages of dementia.

Having lost my grandfather to Alzheimer’s disease, I can say firsthand that the pain patients and their families experience is almost impossible to bear. It has, however, driven thousands across the country to act. Five years ago, federally-funded research into Alzheimer’s disease and dementia conducted by the National Institutes of Health was about half of what it is today and had been flat for some time.

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