Hearing Shines Spotlight on Funding for Alzheimer’s Support

Alzheimer’s Makes an Impact on Families

“She is just a shadow of herself and how she used to be,” Michelle Smith said of her grandmother who has suffered from Alzheimer’s for four years in Central New York, “sometimes she is like her old self, but those days are not as often as the days that she can not remember us[the family].”

Before Smith’s grandmother got sick with Alzheimer’s, her family would gather every March to celebrate another year gone by with local families. Smith remembers the family gathering four years ago, it would be the last time because of her grandmother’s diagnosis.

“I remember my grandmother walking in that night, crying,” as she speaks, her voice is noticeably shaken. “The disease was just starting to set in, but we realized that things will never be the same again.”

The Alzheimer’s Association of Central New York is a part of a national network that monitors the area from Syracuse to the Pennsylvania border. The Association provides support for caregivers and patients with the disease.

In New York, there are 320,000 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Of those 320,000, the state budget provides about one dollar and seventy-four cents for every person according to the Chief Communications Officer of The Alzheimer’s Association of Central New York, Jared Paventi.

Ithaca College student Paul Rummerfield has experienced the disease in both of his grandmothers. He remembers how his grandmother’s memory lapsed over time while suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

“It’s not such a pivotal moment, it kind of started on slow,” said Rummerfield. “She couldn’t remember what she had just heard three seconds ago.”

“Keeping a loved one out of a nursing home and in their own home helps decrease disorientation,” says Paventi. “Our goal is to keep those with the disease at home for as long as they can possibly stay and in order to accomplish that, we need more government funding.”

Making an Impression in Washington

Last Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services met for the 6th time about Alzheimer’s disease since 2000.

Headlining the speakers for Alzheimer’s Disease before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee was Comedian and Actor Seth Rogen, according to American news publications. Rogen’s appearance was indeed unique.

Accompanying Rogen, were three major contributors to breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s Disease research in recent years, the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIA), Dr. Francis Collins;  the Director of the National Institute of Aging, Dr. Richard Hodes; and the Director of the Rand Center for the Study of Aging, Michael Hurd.

According to the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Tom Harkin, the United States Federal Government began research on Alzheimer’s disease in 1976 with an original investment of 3.6 million dollars and currently continues to fund research with an annual budget of 500,000 dollars.

“The number of Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s disease [5.2 million] has doubled since 1980” said Senator Harkin. “More research is desperately needed.”

Although the subcommittee hearing ended with no extra federal funding for Alzheimer’s research, Senators Tom Harkin and Jerry Moran agreed that they would push for new legislation to help fund new research.

Here is a video of Dr. Francis Collins presenting information about one of the new proteins found in Alzheimer’s patients:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Misrepresentation in the Media

Toward the end of the subcommittee hearing Seth Rogen was able to give a well informed response in order to clarify confusion between Senator Harkin and a statement that Michael Hurd made about the financial delicacy of Americans in their old age. Rogen was calm and collected and divulged a response to the remaining members of the subcommittee reacted to the statement with high eyebrows and Senator Harkin announced the pop culture icon as “Dr. Rogen.”

It appears that Rogen is an individual with a passion for Alzheimer’s reform, not just the “adult sized baby,” he claimed to be during the Subcommittee hearing.

Although it is important to give a star like Rogen notoriety in the media when they attempt to make an impact on a unique issue, Senator Harkin denies that an impact can be made quickly through Federal legislation without support from other members of Congress. “We need your presence here[the Federal Congress], but we need your need your presence back in your congressional districts in your home states.”

A total of seven U.S. Senators appeared before the Subcommittee on February 26th to address Alzheimer’s disease.

Alexander, LamarU.S. Senator[R] Tennessee

Cochran, ThadU.S. Senator[R] Mississippi

Harkin, Thomas “Tom”U.S. Senator[D] Iowa

Kirk, Mark StevenU.S. Senator[R] Illinois

Mikulski, Barbara A.U.S. Senator[D] Maryland

Moran, JerryU.S. Senator[R] Kansas

Shelby, Richard C.U.S. Senator[R] Alabama

The Subcommittee hearing can be seen in it’s entirety on C-span here

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