Hampden Couple Affected by Alzheimer’s Disease Testifies at Hearing Chaired by Senator Collins

Every 65 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, this rate will double to every 33 seconds unless we take action

Mary Dysart Hartt, whose parents founded the family-owned business Dysart’s, and Mike Hartt, the former president of Hartt Transportation, told Senator Collins’ Committee about how creating a care plan has helped them navigate the challenges posed by Alzheimer’s

Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ opening statement.  Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ opening statement.  Click HERE for high-resolution video.

Click HERE to watch Mrs. Hartt’s testimony.  Click HERE for high-resolution video.

Click HERE and HERE for Q&A between Senator Collins and the Hartts.  Click HERE and HERE for high-resolution video.

Click HERE for a video of the hearing 

 

Washington, D.C.—Mary Dysart Hartt’s husband, Mike, was 58 when she began noticing things did not seem quite right.  Daily tasks like running the tractor became a challenge and fender benders became more frequent.  Mrs. Hartt was familiar with the signs of Alzheimer’s since she was part of a family care team for her mother who was living with dementia, but she was not familiar with younger-onset cases.  When Mr. Hartt was 62, he was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s.

 

At an Aging Committee hearing chaired by U.S. Senator Susan Collins today, Mrs. Hartt, accompanied by her husband, testified about how their life has “changed significantly” since Mr. Hartt’s diagnosis.  Mr. Hartt was an avid outdoorsman; president of his family’s trucking business, Hartt Transportation; and the owner of a business that manufactured log homes.  Over the past few years, however, the Hartts sold the farm where they had lived for nearly 40 years, and Mr. Hartt has had to give up driving. 

 

Mrs. Hartt went on to explain that although dementia has created unique challenges, she and her husband “continue to move forward with [their] life as best they can.”  By working with their health care team and developing a care plan, they have made trips around the world, including to Alaska, Iceland, British Columbia, the Yukon, and more.  They have also worked to raise awareness and help others living with Alzheimer’s.  Mrs. Hartt’s parents started the family-owned business Dysart’s, which is famous for its “Purpleberry Pie” that has raised more than $25,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association, Maine Chapter.  She also plans to run her 41st marathon in Boston to raise money for Alzheimer’s research and help eliminate the stigma of this disease.

 

“Mary and Mike are truly an inspiration, and I thank them both for being here today,” said Senator Collins, a founder and co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease.  “In the fight against Alzheimer’s, people like Mary and Mike are the champions, and their advocacy has helped usher in an era of hope paired with action against this devastating disease.”

 

“Part of being an advocate is to fight the stigma. Alzheimer’s still has a stigma and people don’t know what to do. If someone is diagnosed with cancer, people tend to rally around and offer support – it’s not like that with Alzheimer’s.” explained Mary Dysart Hartt, Alzheimer's Ambassador to Senator Susan Collins. “I want to raise awareness that this doesn’t just happened to elderly – my husband was diagnosed at age 62.”

 

"We are grateful to Senator Collins for her ongoing leadership of federal legislation that supports families who are navigating Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging and we need more attention on diagnosing it early and accurately as well as the unique needs of those affected by younger onset Alzheimer's," said Laurie Trenholm, Executive Director at the Alzheimer's Association, Maine Chapter.

 

Today’s hearing was held in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual advocacy forum, which brings more than 1,000 advocates from around the country to Washington, D.C.  Other witnesses testifying today included:

 

·         Clay Jacobs, Executive Director, Greater Pennsylvania Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, North Abington Township, Pennsylvania.  

 

·         Sharon Fekrat, MD, FACS, Professor, Ophthalmology and Surgery, Duke School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina.  

 

·         Richard J. Hodes, MD, Director, National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

 

Click HERE to read their testimonies.

 

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The rate of Americans dying from dementia has more than doubled in the United States since the year 2000.  Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and the risk increases with age.  An estimated 5.8 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s, costing our nation $290 billion a year, including $195 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid.  If we continue along this trajectory, Alzheimer’s is projected to affect nearly 14 million Americans and surpass $1 trillion in costs by 2050.

 

Senator Collins, founder of the Alzheimer’s Task Force in the Senate, recently helped secure a $425 million increase for Alzheimer’s research—the largest increase in history.  Last month, Senators Collins joined bipartisan groups in introducing the Younger-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Act, which would allow Alzheimer’s patients younger than age 60 to access support programs and services, and the Improving HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act, which would help expand Medicare beneficiaries’ access to a care planning session if they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. 

 

In addition, the Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act Senator Collins authored to create a public health infrastructure to combat Alzheimer’s disease was signed into law on December 31, 2018.