I walked in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s this morning. What a terrific feeling of hope and camaraderie to walk away with. Last year the Denver walk broke its record with 8,000 walkers. I guarantee you it was an even bigger crowd today.
I walked with a good friend who walked in memory of her mother who she lost to Alzheimer’s three years ago. And I walked in memory of my Aunt, who we lost to Alzheimer’s a year ago this month and in honor of her sister, my Mom, who I’m losing to Alzheimer’s a little more each day. I drew a picture of them on a huge sign they had for people to paint memories of their loved ones.
In a sea of purple, I saw photos on the back of so many walkers’ shirts. Photos of loved ones lost to this hateful disease. The thought that so many like me are fighting this fight is both comforting and terrifying.
This disease isn’t going away anytime soon, as the numbers continue to climb. Yet it seems like the world is in denial about this disease and how very real it is. Perhaps it doesn’t seem as real because you don’t visit anyone in the hospital when they have this disease? And because you never hear anyone with it describing their suffering? Because they can’t speak for themselves.
But it is very real. And someone new is diagnosed every 68 seconds. And by 2050 it will be someone new every 33 seconds.
Ironically, federal funding for Alzheimer’s research pales in comparison to that for other chronic diseases. According to University of Mississippi Medical Center, the $450 million allocated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is equivalent to less than 15% of the research funding for HIV/AIDS, less than 11% of funding for cardiovascular disease research, and less than 8% of funding for cancer research. And for every $28,000 spent on Alzheimer’s patient care, only $100 is spent on research. In fact, the government funds more nutrition research than it does Alzheimer’s research.
I recently had the privilege of listening to a scientist discuss research initiatives and progress made. Scientists believe we are getting close and even at a tipping point. We just need a commitment from the federal government to fund research.
And we’re getting there. In January of 2011, the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) was signed into law by President Obama. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) will create a coordinated national plan to overcome the Alzheimer’s crisis and will ensure the coordination and evaluation of all national efforts in Alzheimer’s research, clinical care, institutional, and home- and community-based programs and their outcomes.
But it’s going to take much more. The public has to make it known what our federal priorities with regard to the impending Alzheimer’s epidemic should be, especially given shrinking budgets at every turn. More people need to speak up and take action, contact their Congress representative or become advocates through the Alzheimer’s Association. To put faces on the need. The website of the Alzheimer’s Association has advocacy pages dedicated to helping you do just that. http://www.kintera.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=mmKXLbP8E&b=7516993&auid=8520366 I know this is a blatant plug for my cause, but I know with every molecule in my body that you DO NOT want to watch this happen to anyone you love.
If you’re still reading this and you’re not exhausted, I commend you. And I appreciate you taking the time. I’m truly grateful that you are reading this, that I went on that walk today, and that we can end this. Let’s do it.