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My View: Alzheimer's claims 500,000 lives a year

More than 800 people living with Alzheimer’s, caregivers and advocates from across the nation will gather April 7-9 in Washington, D.C., for the 26th-annual Alzheimer’s Association Advocacy Forum.

Representing millions of people impacted by Alzheimer’s across the country, they will appeal to members of Congress for action on Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, there are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease and 15.5 million Alzheimer’s caregivers. As an Alzheimer’s advocate, it is my honor to play a role in addressing this rapidly growing health crisis.

Why am I participating in Alzheimer’s advocacy? Both my parents died of Alzheimer’s disease, my father in July 1998 and my mother in November 1999. I can tell you from first-hand experience that losing loved ones to Alzheimer’s is heartbreaking for the family. I will share one story from my own experience.

After my father, Don Brewsaugh, died, my mother, Esther Brewsaugh, could barely grasp the fact of his death, much less retain this knowledge.

Some people thought it was a kindness for her to forget that her husband of 60 years had died. To me it seemed the worst cruelty.

Mom would look at Daddy’s empty chair and ask us, “Where’s Don? Did Don die?”

She would then dissolve into inconsolable weeping, only to go through the same process maybe an hour later. And again. And again. All day, every day, over and over again, for months and months.

Mom was forced to go through the acute grief and shock of learning — as if for the first time — of daddy’s death. We, her four daughters, were powerless to comfort her.

And as the daughters of two Alzheimer’s sufferers, my three sisters and I are of course anxious about what the future may hold for us.

In addition to the human toll, Alzheimer’s is the most expensive condition in the nation, costing $214 billion a year. Nearly $1 in every $5 spent by Medicare is on people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only cause of death among the top 10 without a way to prevent, stop or even slow its progression.

If we could eliminate Alzheimer’s tomorrow, we could save 500,000 lives every year.

It is only through adequate funding and a strong implementation of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s disease that we will meet its goal of preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s by 2025.

To learn how you can get involved in the fight against Alzheimer’s, visit alz.org.

Christy Brewsaugh lives in Eagle Creek.



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