A REASON TO HOPE - Your voice can make a difference in Alzheimer's efforts

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Each day provides a new opportunity for me to learn something about Alzheimer's and the other types of dementia. I am fortunate to have a job that provides the opportunity to share my new discoveries.

This is only one of the reasons that there is urgency to voice the many needs and concerns of this disease. We have fought hard for cancer and AIDS research; now is the time for fight hard to find treatments and a cure for Alzheimer's and the other types of dementia.

Your part can have many forms, whether a loved one is dealing with the diagnosis or not. You might ask "Why get involved?" The answers are wide ranging and varied.

If you are not experiencing Alzheimer's personally, you most likely have a friend or acquaintance that is.

If today you are fortunate enough to say "no, my life is not touched by dementia", the reality is that will be short lived. By 2025 the number of diagnosed cases will increase in the state of Washington by 81 percent.

That is an intimidating figure. It comes from living longer lives, along with the research that is providing more accurate diagnostic testing.

Last week I had the opportunity to meet, along with six volunteers and our executive director, in Olympia with the senators and representatives of the 8th and 16th districts. We were able to present our 2010 public policy priorities: the need to oppose all further reductions in the budget that would hurt people who have Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia, as well as their caregivers.

The needed programs and services that in our view cannot survive further cuts are Medicaid, Health and Recovery Services Administration systems, Senior Citizens Service Act, Homecare services and the Family Caregiver Services Program.

Individuals with Alzheimer's disease and their families depend on the services provided by adult day centers. Last but certainly not the least of our concerns is to fund the current schedule for training, providing improved training and services for home care workers.

One of the things that I was able to observe was the true level of understanding that our legislators have for the struggles families face with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia, along with the impact that our communities are facing.

As I have found so often, since becoming the Southeastern Washington outreach coordinator, more lives are being affected by this disease than any of us realize. Your voice can make a difference.

You don't have to be eloquent with words, just willing to take a few minutes to share your story. It does not matter if you are a professional caregiver, family member or friend, your voice matters.

For every individual voice, or participant at an event, like our advocacy day in Olympia, most elected officials recognize that you are representing another 300 people within their district. That is meaningful and shows how important you are in the fight for care and a cure.

Alzheimer's Association advocates realized a tremendous victory in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 11 as the Social Security Administration added early-onset Alzheimer's to the list of conditions under its Compassionate Allowance Initiative.

This has been in the process for years and allows people with early-onset Alzheimer's expedited access to Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. The Alzheimer's Association-Inland Northwest Chapter is available to provide you with information and steps for this process.

As your chapter we are working to provide you with educational classes, materials, 24/7 help line, support groups and opportunities to volunteer and advocate. For more information, contact me at 509-713-3390 or debbi.pierce@alz.org. Remember, you are not alone.

A Reason to Hope appears the last Wednesday of each month. Debbi Pierce, Southeastern Washington Association-Inland Northwest Chapter, can be reached at debbi.pierce@alz.org or 509-713-3390.


D.C. Summit

Debbi Pierce will be among hundred of Alzheimer's advocates from across the country and one of six from the Alzheimer-Inland Northwest Chapter headed to Washington, D.C., for the Alzheimer's Association Summit Advocacy Forum in March. Today there are as many as 5.3 million American's living with Alzheimer's disease and the number is expected to soar to as many as 16 million by 2050. The forum, "My Experience, My Voice," forum will include a candlelight tribute and rally, several educational sessions that will provide the latest in research and legislative efforts. The event culminates in meetings with legislators on Capital Hill. In April she will be sharing what she has learned, along with other members from the Inland Northwest Chapter, while at the summit.

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