When I looked at my email in-box this afternoon, I encountered one of those messages that I dread: yet another person I know has been institutionalized as a result of Alzheimer’s.
The sadness conveyed by this person’s partner was clear in their words. They had been together for decades. I could feel the loss.
By coincidence, around the same time that I read this email I found myself looking at commentaries regarding Trump’s budget proposals. Drastic cuts in everything except for the military. Though this may, at first glance, seem to have nothing to do with Alzheimer’s, think again. Currently, Alzheimer’s is afflicting at least six million people in the U.S.A. It is expected to expand to more than double that by the middle of the 21st century. Yet addressing Alzheimer’s appears to not be a priority of the White House.
The implications of the increase in Alzheimer’s patients goes far beyond the personal loss and sadness experienced by families. We are talking about immense healthcare costs. As I have witnessed in my extended family, an individual who is otherwise healthy can suffer a long and slow decline that can be not only emotionally intolerable for all involved but immensely expensive, sometimes to the point of personal bankruptcy.
Yet, this is not an affliction that the White House, to borrow from a recent article in STAT [“Like Nixon’s ‘war on cancer,’ President Trump should open a war on Alzheimer’s” <www.statnews.com/2019/02/05/president-trump-should-open-war-on-alzheimers>].
Fighting Alzheimer’s necessitates significant financial investments in order to advance the development of possible treatments. This will not happen on its own, and one cannot rely on the private market to invest. The private market is more often than not cowardly regarding investments until and unless they get a signal from government that there is a genuine interest in a possible direction.
Many of my friends over the age of 50 dread the possibility that they may become victims of Alzheimer’s. In each case most of us feel on our own in addressing this plague. We have seen it not only destroy individuals but take down entire families.
It is well past time that the government makes this a priority. Fighting Alzheimer’s vs. another weapon system we don’t need? Not a difficult choice.
(Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the former president of TransAfrica Forum. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and www.billfletcherjr.com. He recently published the mystery The Man Who Fell From the Sky.)