Approximately 27,000 Mainers are currently living with Alzheimer’s
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Portland, ME—U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a founder of the Alzheimer’s Task Force in the Senate, was a featured speaker at an Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) free educational conference today. The event connected people with information about Alzheimer’s disease, brain health, and dementia caregiving, and participants had the opportunity to interact with experts, ask questions, network, and obtain a free memory screening. Approximately 100 professional caregivers, family caregivers, individuals with dementia, and other Mainers attended the conference.
As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and the Chairman of the Aging Committee, Senator Collins has championed policies to help individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. In her remarks today, she provided an update on federal legislation related to Alzheimer’s that she has authored and told attendees about the progress we are making to find a means of prevention, treatment, and a cure.
“Many people here today, including me, have experienced the heartbreak of a loved one stricken by Alzheimer’s. Rather than succumb to despair, we are joining together to fight this terrible disease,” said Senator Collins. “In many ways, Alzheimer’s is the defining disease of our generation. We must not let Alzheimer’s define our children’s generation as well. I have successfully secured significant increases for biomedical research, and a new law I authored will help combat Alzheimer’s by taking a public health approach. These efforts, combined with the commitment of Alzheimer’s advocates, provide the key to saving lives and charting a brighter future.”
“Families affected by Alzheimer’s in Maine, and throughout the entire country, are fortunate to have a passionate, dedicated champion in Senator Collins fighting for them in Washington. Alzheimer’s is a public health issue which requires bipartisan cooperation to solve. Having Senator Collins speak about the federal government’s progress in the fight against Alzheimer’s, as well as sharing her family’s personal experiences with Alzheimer’s, was extraordinarily beneficial in raising awareness and showing support for all those affected by this terrible disease,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., President & CEO of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.
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 5.5 million Americans—including 27,000 Mainers—are currently living with Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s also costs our nation $290 billion a year, including $195 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid, making it our nation’s most expensive disease. If we continue along this trajectory, Alzheimer’s is projected to affect nearly 14 million Americans and surpass $1 trillion in costs by 2050.
In 2011, Senator Collins authored the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), with then-Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), which set the national goal of preventing and treating Alzheimer’s by the year 2025. Last year, Senator Collins secured an additional $425 million—the largest increase in history—for Alzheimer’s research, bringing our total investment to $2.34 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2019. It builds on significant increases Senator Collins has secured in recent years, including $414 million in FY 2018, $400 million in FY 2017, and $350 million FY 2016. Last week, Senator Collins expressed her strong support for the $2.822 billion NIH estimates it will need in FY 2021 to find a means of reaching the national goal by 2025.
Earlier this year, Senator 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 improve Medicare beneficiaries’ access to a care planning session if they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. 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.
In addition to Senator Collins, speakers at today’s event included:
· Paula Grammas, Ph.D., a cognitive neurologist who is the Executive Director and Thomas M. Ryan Professor of Neuroscience at the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience. She provided an overview of Alzheimer’s disease, an update on Alzheimer’s research and clinical trials, and what we can expect on the horizon; and
· Kathleen Kienitz, a Certified Elder Law Attorney in Lewiston. She discussed different long-term care options and their benefits, along with details that everyone should know when planning their long term care strategies. She also taught attendees how to navigate legal, financial, health, and housing issues in their planning efforts.
Today’s Portland conference was the AFA’s sixth stop as part of its third annual “Educating America Tour.” There are four additional stops planned in different cities across the country this year to raise Alzheimer’s awareness; promote early detection; and provide information about Alzheimer’s related programs, support services, and research.