U.S. Sens. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, who serves as chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, held a Senate field hearing Friday to discuss Alzheimer’s disease and its impact on the elderly at both the state and national levels.
The hearing at Granite Reef Senior Center in Scottsdale, titled “Alzheimer’s and Other Cognitive Diseases: An Arizona Perspective,” featured guests from the senior community as well as a panel of health care experts.
Collins emphasized the severity of Alzheimer’s disease and its growth in the U.S. With a cost of roughly $290 million per year, Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in the nation, and about $195 million of that impacts Medicaid and Medicare programs.
By 2050, Alzheimer’s is projected to impact the lives of roughly 14 million American senior citizens and cost roughly $1 trillion annually.
“We all know someone who has suffered from cognitive impairment, and the impact is immeasurable,” McSally said. “Of the nearly 6 million estimated Americans aged 65 and older affected, 140,000 live in Arizona. My uncle was one of them, as he suffered for many years before passing away from Alzheimer’s.”
Arizona has the fastest-growing rate of Alzheimer’s in the nation. The death rate from Alzheimer’s in the state is 20 percent higher than the national average. Alzheimer’s deaths in the U.S. increased 89 percent between 2000 and 2014.
Health care professionals like the ones at the panel continue to strive for a solution.
Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton, director of the Center of Innovation in Brain Science at the University of Arizona, researches late-onset Alzheimer’s prevention and potential cures. Another panelist, Alireza Atri of the Banner Sun Health Research Institute, has contributed developments in patient evaluation.
Caregivers are also making waves in Alzheimer’s treatment. McSally said that in 2017 the nation had more than 300,000 caregivers providing more than 376 million hours of unpaid care to patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Lisa Capp, a caregiver for patients with dementia, also served on the panel. Capp serves on the Alzheimer’s Association Leadership Board for the Desert Southwest and is a member of the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM) and AlzAuthors.
In tandem with health care leaders, McSally and Collins have helped enact policies to assist patients with Alzheimer’s disease:
- April 2, McSally highlighted the impact Alzheimer’s disease has on Arizona families.
- June 7, McSally introduced a bipartisan package of legislation to provide and enhance support systems for elder Americans.
- June 14, McSally introduced bipartisan legislation allowing U.S. Postal Service customers the option of purchasing a semipostal (or fundraising) stamp to benefit awareness about elder abuse and support efforts to protect seniors.
- July 17, McSally helped introduced the Anti-Spoofing Penalties Modernization Act of 2019 to aid Americans inundated with robocalls.
“Sen. Martha McSally’s commitments and contributions to the Aging Committee’s work are many, and today’s hearing is a testament to her work to advance research and care for families facing Alzheimer’s disease,” Collins said. “Alzheimer’s is one of the greatest public health priorities not only to seniors in the Grand Canyon State, but also throughout our nation.
“As the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Alzheimer’s Task Force in the Senate, I have worked to boost funding for Alzheimer’s research,” she said. “With increased federal investments and public-private partnerships, we are beginning to see hope. It was a pleasure to join my friend and colleague today to learn more about the progress we are making to combat this disease.”