We are at a pivotal moment in the future of Alzheimer's disease. Through the National Alzheimer's Plan Act, passed unanimously through both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Obama last January, the Department of Health and Human Services was charged with creating a national plan to address Alzheimer's disease research, care and support. As this plan begins to take shape in Washington, we must speak with a clear, bold and resounding voice on behalf of those we care for and serve, Alzheimer's disease cannot wait.
Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, no other chronic disease affects so many without a way to cure, prevent or even slow its progression. While a cure is the ultimate goal, delaying the disease onset or progression by five years could result in dramatic savings and improved quality of life for millions of individuals.
Each day, we help individuals and families facing the devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease in our community. The families we serve bear the tremendous emotional, physical and financial burden of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease, day after day, year after year. More than 70 percent of individuals with Alzheimer's disease live at home or are cared for by a friend or family member. The nature and progression of Alzheimer's disease creates unique and specific challenges for caregivers. At some point in the disease progression, individuals with Alzheimer's will need assistance with most daily activities including eating, bathing and dressing. Caring for an individual with Alzheimer's is not only a 24-hour per day, exhausting effort, it is fraught with challenges. It is no surprise that 80 percent of Alzheimer's caregivers report high levels of stress and stress-related illness. Recent studies also show that Alzheimer's caregivers are 63 percent more likely to die before the person they are caring for due to increased stress and the inability to focus on their own health care needs.
Currently, more than 5.4 million Americans, including 230,000 Ohioans have Alzheimer's disease, and are being cared for by 14.9 caregivers, including 1.2 million unpaid caregivers in Ohio. This number is only expected to rise as our nation's baby boomers reach age 65, the threshold of increased risk for developing Alzheimer's disease. By 2050, as many as 16 million Americans will have Alzheimer's disease. This is a number our country and our community cannot bear. Currently Alzheimer's disease costs the United States $183 billion each year, as the number of individuals with Alzheimer's skyrockets, this number will soar to $1 trillion by midcentury. The burden on Medicare will increase by nearly 600 percent and Medicaid nearly 400 percent if we do not take action to address this devastating disease.
We applaud the Administration's leadership in addressing the Alzheimer's crisis, however, it is now time to take action on behalf of the millions living with Alzheimer's disease today and the millions at risk for developing Alzheimer's in the future, it is time to fulfill the law's potential and deliver a bold national strategic plan.
Our nation can no longer sit on the sidelines as Alzheimer's disease ravages thousands of families in our community.
A strong national plan as well as the necessary steps and resources to put the plan in motion will change the future for millions of Americans.
Add your voice to the call to action, a draft framework for the plan was released last week, and can be read at www.alz.org/napa. Ohio, let the president know, Alzheimer's can't wait.
The Alzheimer's Association, West Virginia Chapter is the only voluntary health organization in West Virginia solely dedicated to providing education and support service to individuals with Alzheimer's and other dementias, to their families and caregivers. The chapter serves all 55 counties in West Virginia and six counties in eastern Ohio.
Wendy Hamilton is Mid-Ohio Valley regional coordinator of the Alzheimer's Association. She can be reached at (304) 865-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.