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A Victory for Alzheimer’s Patients and Caregivers

The Obama administration is committing $50 million and has bigger plans


Amid all the news this week about the GOP presidential horserace and President John F. Kennedy’s reported affair with an intern, you may have missed a news item about Alzheimer’s that could truly be helpful to you and your loved ones, not to mention the nation.
 
The Obama administration announced that it wants to increase financing for Alzheimer’s research by $130 million — in addition to the $450 million a year it currently spends — over the next two years, and get an additional $26 million for such things as Alzheimer’s caregiver support and public education about the disease. The National Institutes of Health says it will immediately dedicate $50 million of that $130 million to Alzheimer’s research. “We’re very appreciative about the signal from the administration for Alzheimer’s, when everything else in the federal budget is under pressure,” says Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health.
 
The specific Alzheimer’s proposals will come out next week, when the administration presents its 2013 budget. (Congress needs to approve $106 million of the $156 million, so this is hardly a done deal.)
 
If you’re providing caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s (as I am), you know all too well the ravages of this devastating disease suffered by 5.4 million Americans today. Another American develops Alzheimer’s disease every 69 seconds, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and unless a cure or remedy is found, by 2050 an American is expected to develop the disease every 33 seconds. Alzheimer’s is not only the sixth-leading cause of death in the country, but it’s also the only cause of death among the top 10 that can’t be prevented, cured or even slowed.
 
How significant is the Obama administration’s announcement?
 
“By making the first $50 million available right away from existing, unallocated funds at the NIH, today’s promising research can stay on track without interruptions,”  says Dr. Rachelle S. Doody, who directs the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Waco, Texas. “By committing to an additional $80 million in the 2013 budget, the all-important advance planning process can start now to increase research into critical aspects of Alzheimer’s disease.”
 
But Dr. Doody thinks far more is needed: “These are necessary monetary investments, but by no means are they sufficient.” And she wonders whether Congress will go along with the president’s Alzheimer’s budget requests. “This remains a great opportunity for us to do something about Alzheimer’s disease, and the process has started. It remains to be seen whether the funding necessary for success will follow.”
 
Sherri Snelling, a leading advocate for Alzheimer’s caregiving who blogs at Caregivingclub.com, calls the announcement “a great first step.” Snelling says: “I am encouraged that our highest public officials have officially acknowledged the family caregivers — those first responders in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease who provide 80 percent of the long-term care in this country.”
 
Snelling says that while we wait to see how much money will truly wind up going to Alzheimer’s research and support, caregivers should go to the Alzheimer’s Association website and learn about resources that are available to caregivers.
 
Should you want to show your support, you can sign the Alzheimer’s Association’s petition here.

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