What is the excuse for not taking action on Alzheimer’s?

Having early-stage Alzheimer’s, I get extraordinarily sentimental when I hear the words of songs when I go for early morning walks with my headphones on.

Yesterday morning, I heard the song, “Memories,” and some of the lyrics hit my heart, soul and mind. I looked up the lyrics on the Web: “Daylight (and the sun was about to rise soon after at that time), I must wait for the sunrise, I must think of a new life, and I mustn’t give in, when the dawn comes, tonight will be a memory too, and a new day will begin …”

As I live in this new chapter of my life with Alzheimer’s and it’s associated memory problems, I feel as as though I am metaphorically like that butterfly living in “The Precious Present” (as is the title of the book by Spencer Johnson, MD.) On a daily basis, I do as many of my physicians have strongly recommended: living each moment to it’s fullest, being proactive and active, and doing the best that I can do under my cognitive circumstances, without worrying about tomorrow or carrying the baggage of the past.

The other song that I heard this morning as I was walking was “Oh Very Young” and the words said, “You’re only dancing on this earth for a short time … and though you want to last forever, you know you never will …” — and boy, this is true for each of us. We all have a short time on this earth, so we gotta make the best of the time, in good health and times when our health is not so good.

When I see the harsh political bickering in Washington, DC, and how the press may make some of these issues most dominant in the news, I ponder think about how health is the foundation of each of our lives and a foundation of our society.  Yet a huge number of health issues do not make the news and are sometimes put on the back burner to some stories that may be more “sensational” in nature.

Without having good health, what is there? Money and possessions are not a substitute, I have lived through that.

With President Obama now asking for a mere increase of $100 million in Alzheimer’s funding this year, additional funding to try to get Alzheimer’s funding on par with the funding of other major diseases, Congress continues to banter about other political issues, perhaps using these issues as an excuse or distraction for not taking action on some of the important issues that face our nation.  That disturbs me.

My message to Congress is this: bicker on negative political topics if you wish, but do not use these issues as excuses for not taking the necessary actions to improve the lives of the 5 million individuals with Alzheimer’s and their 15 million caregivers.

Alzheimer’s is now Medicare’s costliest illness, more than cancer or heart disease. Over 140 billion dollars this year. So why delay funding curative research efforts to the NIH? What can be the excuse for not taking action?

This is not the time for any elected official to “turn your heads and pretend that you do not see” as Bob Dylan wrote in “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Members of Congress must face their heads directly forward and get moving on all of the things that are most essential for our nation.

Alexander Halperin is a retired dentist and a volunteer, Alzheimer’s Association.

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