By Kelly Hauer
About 35 million people are living with Alzheimer’s worldwide, more than
5 million in the United States. Closer to home, an estimated 69,000 Iowans have the mind-robbing disease that took my friend and former board member Jon Witherell.
Alzheimer’s disease is the fifth-leading cause of death in Iowa and there is no prevention, no cure and no way to slow its progression. Jon lost his battle in 2010 with younger-onset Alzheimer’s, what he called “the family destroyer.” Families must shoulder the tremendous emotional, physical and financial toll of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s day after day, year after year.
Two weeks ago, researchers from around the globe were in Vancouver, Canada, for the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference to advance the discovery of scientific breakthroughs leading to methods of prevention, treatment and ultimately, a cure. Newly published studies that can be found at www.alz.org/aaic cover the spectrum of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia research, including causes, risk factors, detection and diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Researchers left the conference feeling confident that advancements are being made in the area of early detection with potential pathways to better treatments.
These advances are critical in efforts to create a future where Alzheimer’s disease is no longer a death sentence for people like Jon and countless others, but rather a manageable, treatable, curable or even preventable disease.
While promising advances in Alzheimer’s research continue, additional focus and funding are needed to change the frightening trajectory of the Alzheimer’s epidemic. To this end, the Alzheimer’s Association is driving successful implementation of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s disease. The plan includes an ambitious goal of effectively treating and preventing Alzheimer’s by 2025.
The plan is also the basis for a budget request of $100 million in new resources to fight Alzheimer’s. It is vitally important that Congress provide these resources in the fiscal 2013 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill.
The Alzheimer’s Association will hold a town-hall meeting in Cedar Rapids on Aug. 7. The purpose of the meeting is to bring together the regional scientific and medical community, legislators, and people impacted by Alzheimer’s and other related dementias, to share views about how best to implement the National Alzheimer’s Plan.
If, like Jon’s family and friends, you have been touched by Alzheimer’s, please consider attending and possibly sharing your important story and perspective. Every voice will count.
To learn more about the town hall, contact the Alzheimer’s Association locally through our 24/7 Helpline at 1-(800) 272-3900.
Kelly Hauer is executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association East Central Iowa Chapter, Cedar Rapids. Comments: Kelly.Hauer@alz.org