Not Just Talk: Behind the Scenes at an Alzheimer’s Congressional Hearing

July 29, 2011 - Trish Vradenburg

I have been to some Congressional hearings and might I sum most of them up right now: yawn.

Except for the hearing two weeks ago on Alzheimer’s. So maybe you have to be interested – okay, passionately involved – in the subject for a hearing to be interesting. You say Alzheimer’s and I’m there.

I think the headline of this hearing should have been “Alzheimer’s Threatens Global Fiscal Stability.” In other words, Congress, if you don’t fix Alzheimer’s with a cure or way to prevent it, we’re all going under. Already the worldwide number of victims with this as-yet incurable diseases is 35.6 million people. Consider this stat: the projected number of victims with AD is projected to reach 115 million in the coming decades.
As population control advocates always wanted, birthrates are going down. But at the same time, people are living longer.

George Vradenburg, testifying in the hearing. Photo credit: UsAgainstAlzheimer’s.

In the hearing, George Vradenburg, founder of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, underlined this fact by reporting that aging experts have told him that his grandchildren will live to 110 or 120 (Willard Scott is going to be one busy fellow). Since 1 out of 2 persons over 85 has Alzheimer’s, the number of victims, it stands to reason, will only grow. At the same time, with the de-escalation of the population, fewer family members will be able to tend to the 24-7 demands of the Alzheimer’s population.

“If Alzheimer’s were a country, it would be the 18th largest economy based on GDP,” pointed out Daisy Acosta, the Chairman of Alzheimer’s Disease International, referring to Alzheimer’s as “the single most important health and social crisis of the 21st century.”

All of this would make you think that Congress is doing everything financially possible to correct this dire situation before it is too late. Wrong.

“We invest six billion dollars a year for cancer, four billion dollars a year for heart disease, two billion dollars a year for HIV/Aids,” (which is now a manageable disease) “And about $450 million dollars a year for Alzheimer’s Disease,” reported Bill Thies, Chief Medical and Scientific Officer at the Alzheimer’s Association.
Congressman Ed Markey (D, MA) the Co-Chair of the House Subcommittee on Alzheimer’s, agreed and added, “The world must come together to find a solution. We are in a race against time…and that is across the whole planet.”

Mr. Vradenburg added that rather than warehouse our seniors, we need to how to put dementia patients back to work in order to keep the economy from collapsing. “Those countries that get it right and figure out how to support their aging populations – keeping them healthy and keeping them productive – are going to be the winners in the 21st century. Those who do not will be the losers.”

Suggesting that our country needs a national goal for Alzheimer’s, Congressman Chris Smith (R., NJ), Chair of the Subcommittee, nodded in agreement as he took copious notes.

Let me note for the record that I did not see one Congressman or person in the audience fall asleep. Now that is an interesting hearing.

Reprinted from the AARP Blog.

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