BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Alzheimer's disease is crippling, taking once healthy people are turning them into a shell of their former selves. There is no cure, but that could change with additional funding for research. That's why members of the Alzheimer's Association sat down with Rep. Steven Palazzo for a candid conversation Tuesday morning.
The congressman was engaged from the start. This meeting was designed to be an eye opener. Renee Lawson is with the Alzheimer's Association.
"He can hear how it has affected them and what help they need, and he'll be able to really relate to what this research money can help assist him with," Lawson explained.
Alzheimer's takes a physical toll, but also a financial toll as well, according to T.J. Harvey.
"5.3 million people are affected in the U.S., 51,000 in Mississippi. If we don't do something today, it will eventually bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid. It will cost the U.S. budget $1.1 trillion by 2050," Harvey said.
When it comes to Alzheimer's disease, a lot of emphasis is placed on the patients, the people who are robbed of their lives, slowly but surely.
It's just as hard on the caregivers who love them. Roxann Davidson is the director of the Ocean Springs Nursing Center.
"They are doing all they can to meet their needs. They are up all night. They are not getting the rest that they need. They are struggling to meet the needs for medications and for having just some time to get away and to rest," Davidson lamented.
Congress has approved additional research funding of $300 million this year, bringing the total to almost $1 billion. Palazzo knows that money is critically important.
"The money that we invest in it will save us millions, if not billions, later, but it also improves the quality of life of not only the patients themselves, but also the family members who are typically the ones who provide the care," Palazzo said.
That is care that will be harder to come by as more and more baby boomers are diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
Earlier Tuesday, Sen. Roger Wicker held a press conference in Washington, D.C., to push for passage of the Eureka Act. It would also provide more funding to Alzheimer's research by encouraging more private-public collaborations in the fight against the disease.