As legislators who are concerned about the human and fiscal costs associated with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, we have authored the Alzheimer’s Research and Support Act (S.F. 247.) We are two daughters who have seen this disease up close and in person. We know Minnesota must act to combat this disease of long goodbyes and exorbitant costs.
About 100,000 Minnesotans have Alzheimer’s. By age 65, one in nine seniors will have the disease. By age 85, that number increases to one in three. The number of sufferers is set to skyrocket nationwide because every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65.
The demographics of the disease are only part of the story. Alzheimer’s costs increase dramatically as the disease advances to the point of requiring 24/7 care and assistance with each daily activity. Nationally, the costs for the care of people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will total an estimated $226 billion this year. Despite the demographics and cost to society, there is still no cure. Our legislation is a call to action to help fund the research necessary to find one.
Minnesota is already preparing for the human costs of Alzheimer’s. In 2011, Minnesota created ACT on Alzheimer’s, where people from all sectors of our state came together to accomplish transformative work in building dementia-capable communities. The program is being considered for broader adoption throughout the country, as well as internationally.
Yet only research can change the trajectory of Alzheimer’s disease. Much of the pioneering and trendsetting work done on dementia is conducted in Minnesota, but researchers need additional support to continue their excellent work.
Just last month at a hearing in the Minnesota House, researchers from HealthPartners, Essentia, the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota were cited for their cutting-edge work. According to Dr. Ron Petersen, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the Mayo Clinic, we know a great deal about the underlying biology and are now about to detect the proteins that cause the disease in the brain, even when a person is still cognitively normal. This is critical progress that must be leveraged.
Minnesota has led the nation in addressing many issues related to this disease. Now we must step up and help support research. A commitment to research today will yield savings tomorrow.
Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, and Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, are members of the Minnesota Senate.