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Huffington Post Op-Ed: Relegating Alzheimer’s Disease to the History Books

Last weekend, CNN aired the television premiere of Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, an extraordinary documentary about a beloved country music star’s farewell tour during his fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Faced with an inevitable decline, the award-winning singer performed 151 emotional and inspiring sold out concerts over a 15-month period. During the making of the movie, I helped the Campbell family and filmmakers convene a concert in Washington D.C. to share Glen’s story with members of Congress. It was a performance that moved many audience members to tears and, our hope, to action.

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, an opportunity to join the global conversation about this devastating disease. Alzheimer’s will cost America an estimated $226 billion this year. Worldwide, 47 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s and other dementias, more than five million of them in America. Without effective treatments and a cure, this number will grow to 76 million by 2030. As the number of patients dramatically increases with the aging of the Baby Boom generation, Medicare and Medicaid expenditures will skyrocket fivefold by 2050, costing the United States an annual $1.1 trillion. That is more than our entire federal defense budget today.

I lost my mother to Alzheimer’s in 1998. My father cared for her every day in our living room for thirteen years, a situation experienced every day by the tens of millions of Americans who care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. The year after her death I founded the bipartisan Congressional Taskforce on Alzheimer’s to launch a battle against this silent but deadly enemy.