Commentary: Congress needs to add funding to fight Alzheimer’s

The Younger-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Act in Congress will fund research and help provide care.

By Katie Zeitler

For The Herald

There are more than 110,000 residents of our state living with Alzheimer’s disease, and more than 348,000 family members and friends are acting as unpaid caregivers.

Fellow Washingtonians who joined the 1,200 attendees at the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement Advocacy Forum in April in Washington, D.C., said Congress was listening to their explanation of the burden that Alzheimer’s places on our state and nation.

This advocacy is important to me for several reasons. I have been a caregiver for the past six years and have cared for many individuals who have had Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. I have seen their decline, their struggles, and the challenges and burdens their loved ones have faced as a result of this disease.

I lost my grandfather to Alzheimer’s in 2008. He lived a beautiful, vibrant life, but his golden years were cut short due to the disease. I will never forget when the state of California took away his driver license. He loved taking his grandkids out for rides and was no longer able to do that. He lived a life of service work and was constantly helping others. I miss him every day and I wish he could still be here with us.

We need to do more. Alzheimer’s is running rampant through our communities. Our resources are limited. Caregivers and facilities are limited. We need more infrastructure. We need more awareness. We need more funding for research. What Congress does is imperative to the future of combating this disease.

Legislators were asked to continue to increase funding for Alzheimer’s research at the National Institutes of Health, as well as fund implementation of the BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act, which Congress passed into law last year.

Alzheimer’s doesn’t strike just the elderly. The 200,000 Americans diagnosed with dementia before age 65 need services like in-home care, transportation, and caregiver support. Advocates asked members of Congress to cosponsor the Younger-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Act, which will amend the Older Americans Act to serve these families too.

I am grateful that U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene has cosponsored this needed legislation, H.R. 1903. Please join me in urging U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen to join her as a cosponsor of the bill.

All our members of Congress should continue to actively support policies that address Alzheimer’s disease as the national public health crisis it is.

Katie Zeitler lives in Lynnwood.

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