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More funding needed to combat Alzheimer’s

Just over a year ago, my father died from Alzheimer’s disease. For more than a decade leading up to his death, my family and I watched a proud man, a wonderful father and grandfather, deteriorate into a state that can only be described as cruel and unforgiving. This disease took the man who spent hours visiting children and families in Golisano Children’s Hospital as Sir Holly the clown to someone who needed 24-hour care in a nursing home for six years, and before that three years in an assistive-living facility. The horrors inflicted by Alzheimer’s cannot be understated.

Eleven years ago, I also saw Alzheimer’s take my mother-in-law from us much too early and much too quickly.

Having witnessed the disease firsthand twice in recent years, I can truly say this nation must come to grips with it and take action now. Today, more than 5 million Americans are living with the disease, and by 2050, if it’s not stopped, it could be as many as 16 million.

A study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that Alzheimer’s is now the most expensive disease in America, costing more than cancer and heart disease. In 2013, caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost our country an estimated $203 billion; over the next 40 years, it will cost a cumulative $20 trillion.

America has a strong history of investing in the fight against heart disease, HIV/AIDS and cancer. These investments have paid off as the death rates have been reduced or leveled off.

It’s time for Washington to make a New Year’s resolution to increase the badly needed funding for Alzheimer’s disease research and community-based programs and services. The investment will help to combat the Alzheimer’s public health crisis and will make a significant difference in so many people’s quality of life. It’s either pay me now or pay me later. Paying later will bankrupt this country. We must step up now with what experts need to make Alzheimer’s a memory of the past by 2025.

Bruce Holroyd

Alzheimer’s Association Ambassador to Sen. Charles Schumer