By Congressman Peter Roskam (IL-06)
Over five million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer's disease, and each year thousands more are diagnosed with this painful, heart-rending illness. Most of us know someone—a family member, coworker or friend—suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia. With the number of Alzheimer's patients expected to skyrocket in the coming decades, we must continue to press forward, offering support for family members and caregivers, while developing better and more effective treatment options as we work toward a cure for this terrible disease.
An Alzheimer's diagnosis is life-changing not only for those with the disease, but for their friends, family and loved ones. For caregivers, looking after a parent or spouse with Alzheimer’s impacts the entire family, as advanced stages of the disease requires round-the-clock attention. Thanks to the work of groups like the Alzheimer's Association, individuals impacted by Alzheimer's can get the help they need, from advice on caregiving to support groups, navigating the healthcare system and learning about new clinical trials. In September, I participated in an event hosted by the Alzheimer's Association's Greater Illinois Chapter to discuss the rising number of Americans affected by the disease, the escalating costs associated with treating patients, and the important strides clinical research is making today that give us all reason for optimism. These open dialogue and brainstorming sessions are a critical step in the fight against Alzheimer's.
Important work is also being done on the federal, state, and local levels to build awareness and advance medical research. As part of the bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's, my colleagues and I have been working to address the growth of Alzheimer's. One piece of legislation that I am pushing is the Alzheimer's Accountability Act, which would increase coordination between the National Institute of Health, Congress, and the White House regarding the resources necessary to help treat Alzheimer's. Another bill, the Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education (HOPE) for Alzheimer's Act would help improve early diagnosing of Alzheimer’s and strengthen support services for patients and their families.
Defeating Alzheimer's requires uniting Americans nationwide in conjunction with local government, healthcare experts, and outside organizations like the Alzheimer's Association. We are all in this fight together, and ending this disease will take time and a common focus on the task at hand. That's why we must continue to raise awareness of Alzheimer's and the promising efforts taking place to curb its growth, as well as increase support for patients and their caregivers. While the challenge of battling Alzheimer's is immense, the outpouring of support and dedicated activism for this crucial cause gives me hope that we can one day effectively treat—and eventually cure—this devastating disease.