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Alzheimers issue only getting worse

Every 69 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer's disease. There are an estimated 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer's, which could grow to 16 million by 2050. In Oregon, about 76,000 people have Alzheimer's, and there are more than 162,000 unpaid family caregivers. For these caregivers, increased stress leads to more health problems, time providing care leads to less time for work, family or their own interests, and many are financially devastated. As the boomers turn 65, and we continue to see the rate of Alzheimer's increasing, we will be facing a crisis.

We need to take action now to avert this crisis. We need to set a goal for where we want to be and then determine how best to get there. If we don't do this, we will see insurance rates skyrocket, Medicare and Medicaid drained, and millions more families suffering needlessly.

There is some good news. Plans are being created to address the Alzheimer's crisis at both the national and Oregon levels. Congress unanimously passed the National Alzheimer's Project Act last year, which requires the creation of a national plan for Alzheimer's. This effort is up and running, and people can provide input and follow the progress by going to napa.alz.org.

Here in Oregon, the Alzheimer's Association is partnering with state legislators, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, scientific and academic researchers, memory care providers, individual caregivers and others to craft a 'State Plan for Alzheimer's Disease in Oregon.' This plan will help ensure effective and efficient care and services to people living with Alzheimer's and their families. In short, this plan is to make Oregon 'dementia ready.'

November is National Alzheimer's Awareness Month, but I'd ask you to be more than aware - be active and engaged. There will be a town hall meeting via telephone on Nov. 10, to gather public input on what should be in the Oregon plan for Alzheimer's. If you RSVP on the Alzheimer's Association website (alz.org/oregon) or by calling 503-416-0202, you can be connected to this town hall call to provide your input on what you think needs to be done to fight Alzheimer's and ensure quality care and services for people impacted by it.

In these tough times, we know that government budgets and family budgets are stretched thin. We believe that together we can meet the needs of people impacted by Alzheimer's while saving money. More funding for research now can save billions of dollars in costs in the future. Effective training programs for caregivers can lead to fewer doctor visits for them. Better coordination of services will save taxpayers money. These are all things that can and should be part of the national and state plans for Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer's is the next big public health issue to tackle. As a society, we need to come together, discuss the issues openly, and make sure we're prepared to deal with it. We know we can solve major puzzles when we devote resources to it, like sending a man to the moon or finding effective treatments for AIDS. Now is the time for us to turn our attention to Alzheimer's.

Jon Bartholomew is the Public Policy Director for the Alzheimer's Association Oregon Chapter (1650 N.W. Naito Parkway, Suite 190, Portland, 97209, 503-416-0202, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).