Imagine being unable to recognize your child’s face, or witnessing a brother or sister forgetting their sibling’s name.
It’s upsetting to think about. Yet with more than 5 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, this is a frightening reality for many.
Alzheimer’s permeates nearly every community in our country, forcing millions of families to suffer through the pain of having loved ones gradually forget the people and memories they previously cherished. The burden placed on these families can be overwhelming as they struggle to best take care of their ailing family member while dealing with their own grief and heartache brought on by their loved one’s memory loss.
Despite declining mortality rates for many other diseases, Alzheimer’s continues to be on the rise. It has emerged, as of 2015, as the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, with no signs of slowing its upward trajectory. In Massachusetts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict that by 2025, there will be more than 150,000 people suffering from Alzheimer’s. That’s an average of more than 427 people in each community in the Bay State.
We are fortunate to live in a state with incredible research facilities and healthcare providers that are working around the clock to combat Alzheimer’s, but there is still more that we can be doing as a commonwealth to further assist research and to improve the quality of life for those impacted by the disease.
Cognizant of the challenges we face in this ongoing battle, I have filed legislation that would establish the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Project within the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services. Its purpose is to create and integrate a statewide plan to accelerate the development of treatments that could prevent, halt or reverse Alzheimer’s disease.
This bill would establish an advisory council on Alzheimer’s research and treatment in order to guide the state on matters related to the disease. This council, served by experts in health care, would coordinate with the federal government and other states to recommend policies that promote Alzheimer’s care and disease research.
Furthermore, this legislation recognizes that certain ethnic and racial populations are at an elevated risk for Alzheimer’s disease. In an effort to decrease health disparities across the commonwealth, this bill would ensure that a greater focus is placed on these higher-risk populations.
[Editor’s note: This Alzheimer’s Association document notes that elderly African-Americans are about twice as likely as white seniors to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Older Hispanics’ risk is one-and-half-times greater than whites.]
Ultimately, this legislative initiative will help our state prepare for the predicted increase in Alzheimer’s diagnoses, as well as educate and raise awareness on the disease. The bill, S.1239, is now before the state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health, where I hope it will receive a favorable recommendation.
This critical piece of legislation will go a long way to supporting our senior citizens, aging veterans, local families, and the community as a whole.
As our population continues to grow and age, we must be proactive in ensuring we have a coordinated effort to treat and address the impact this disease has on individuals and the families who care for them.
Massachusetts Sen. Michael O. Moore, D-Millbury, represents the second Worcester district, including Auburn, Grafton, Leicester, Millbury, Shrewsbury and Upton, and parts of Northbridge and Worcester.