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Karen Cyphers: Rep. Hudson’s bill to help Alzheimer’s patients is a big deal

Every 68 seconds, another individual is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. One in every three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia.

It is the only top cause of death with no known treatments or cures. Alzheimer’s is the most costly disease to federal and state governments. To families, too. Federal dollars for Alzheimer’s fall dramatically short of funding studies the research community has queued up.

Florida Rep. Matt Hudson stepped up last week with a plan for Florida to change this. Hudson’s bill, HB 709, is a really big deal. It will provide for a competitive grant program for Alzheimer’s research, and include guidelines for memory disorder clinics and special needs shelters.

Want to help support Hudson’s efforts? Here’s how: TALK ABOUT IT.

Alzheimer’s carries a crippling stigma that stands in the way of momentum to address it.

Knowing there are no treatments or cures, people avoid talking to their physicians about symptoms of memory loss. Those who do talk with doctors often avoid sharing their diagnoses with family or friends. Family members who are told often work to cover up for their spouse, fearing that others will withdraw or become awkward if the diagnosis is known.

Basically, people — even in the early stages — fear being treated like they are already lost, far before their memory is fully compromised. Through self-inflicted silence, people retreat from social events. After all, who wants to face the embarrassment of losing track within a conversation?

But in the aggregate, silence is a killer.

The impression prevails of the Alzheimer’s patient as one who has nothing left to give, nothing left to know. This is far from true.

I know this from my father, a 64-year-old living with early stage Alzheimer’s who took his diagnosis as a call to action. He is still himself, even through progressing symptoms, and no matter when he can no longer contribute, it will have been too early.

Lawmakers need to hear these stories of how Alzheimer’s touches each of us — even the most sheltered, protected family accounts.

Hudson has taken the helm of easily the most important healthcare issue of our times. He is not fighting for this cause alone. The best way we can support him is to bring Alzheimer’s out of the shadows together.

Talk to your families and friends. Call your state legislators. Email the governor. Tell them that Alzheimer’s has touched you and that Hudson’s bill matters. For all the pains of sharing, our hope can grow that the next generations will be spared from the same.

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