Imagine it is the year 2030. Your parents are two of the 7.7 million Americans who have Alzheimerâ€™s disease. You have two kids to take care of and a demanding job. You want to take care of your parents, but cannot physically be there all the time to make sure they are okay. You see your parentsâ€™ savings rapidly disappear. You are emotionally drained as you watch your parents slowly lose the ability to do everything. What can you do? What could you have done differently?
Luckily, it is not 2030, but 2012. I am writing this article because I think it is time that we as a nation step up to the plate and tackle this problem head on. Yes, I think it is fantastic that the National Alzheimerâ€™s Project Act (NAPA) passed in January 2011. According to the Alzheimerâ€™s Association, â€œThe National Alzheimerâ€™s Project Act requires creation of a national strategic plan to address the rapidly escalating Alzheimerâ€™s disease crisis and will coordinate Alzheimerâ€™s disease efforts across the federal government.â€ NAPA was a start, but we need to pass legislation which will actually accomplish goals and not just state them.
Congress needs to follow through and pass the Alzheimerâ€™s legislation that is on the table: the HOPE Act and the Alzheimerâ€™s Breakthrough Act. These two acts provide legislation that will implement the goals set in the NAPA Act. It is an election year, and so many people do not think much legislation will be passed this year. This is my message to Congress: Prove me wrong and pass this legislation to start the path to end Alzheimerâ€™s.
Congress â€” if we hold off investing for a cure or a way to slow the progression of the disease today, we will be paying for it later. According to the Alzheimerâ€™s Association: â€œOver the next 40 years, caring for individuals with Alzheimerâ€™s will cost American society $20 trillion â€” including $15 trillion to Medicare and Medicaid.â€ With a health care system that already has its problems, Alzheimerâ€™s disease will only escalate them.
As a nation, we can ill-afford to continue with the status quo in dealing with Alzheimerâ€™s. And frankly, the members of Congress are in an age group that should be very concerned about Alzheimerâ€™s. According to the Congressional Research Service, in the 112th Congress the average age of a U.S. Senator is 62.2 years old and the average age of a U.S. Representative is 56.7 years old. The problems accompanying aging are sobering to think about, and they are an honest reality which our lawmakers should consider.
Finally, I want to reach out to my generation. I am 22 years old and know firsthand the effects of Alzheimerâ€™s, as my grandfather had the disease. I also know that I am in the generation which many older Americans describe as â€œthe screwed generation.â€ We are the generation which is going to have to pay the piper from the federal deficit. We are the generation which will not get Social Security and other benefits which older Americans receive today. Does that mean we are supposed to just accept every problem and not try to improve things? No, we can do our part and try to help best we can.
It always helps to have a celebrity who supports a cause that needs attention. Seth Rogen and his wife, Lauren Miller, recently held an event called â€œHilarity For Charityâ€ to raise money and awareness among the younger generation about Alzheimerâ€™s disease. To quote Seth, â€œHilarity for Charity started as a message to my generation that itâ€™s time to step up and realize that Alzheimerâ€™s is not just an â€˜old person disease,â€™ but something that will greatly affect all of us.â€
Seth and Lauren are actively involved in raising awareness and fundraising for Alzheimerâ€™s, as Laurenâ€™s mother was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 55. They raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for their event and are a great example of how younger generations can make a difference.
Where does that leave us? Of course we do not have the same outreach as a Hollywood star, but we can do plenty. We can be a voice. Please go to this website â€” http://www.alzimpact.org/Legislative-Action-Center â€” to write your Congressmen and ask him to help pass legislation which can help cure Alzheimerâ€™s.
You can also take 30 seconds to fill out a form which will go to President Obama to ask him to include Alzheimerâ€™s in his budget this year: http://www.alz.org/petition/. It may not feel like much, but it truly will make a difference.
David Goldberg is a columnist for the Cavalier Daily at the University of Virginia.