Saturday, September 5, 2015

U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan talks about toll Alzheimer's disease took on his father

LEMSON - U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan spoke Wednesday about the toll that Alzheimer’s disease took on his father before he died earlier this year.

“I watched my father become more and more aggressive due to the Alzheimer’s disease,” Duncan said during a U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging field hearing at Clemson University’s Strom Thurmond Institute.

Duncan’s father, John Duncan, died April 14 of complications from the disease, which is a progressive, irreversible neurological disorder that primarily affects people over 65. The Republican from Laurens also recounted how his father’s illness created difficulties for his mother.

“My mom struggled with not having a power of attorney to access the funds that were going to be critical to take care of my father,” Duncan said.

More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Duncan said that number is expected to rise by 40 percent in the next decade.

“In South Carolina, 81,000 people are stricken with the illness. By 2025, the number will explode to 120,000 people,” Duncan said. “As South Carolinians, we must confront this growing wave today before it consumes our friends and loved ones tomorrow.”

The committee’s chairman, Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, discussed the financial implications of Alzheimer’s disease during Wednesday session.

“In addition to the suffering that Alzheimer’s causes, it costs the United States more than $226 billion annually.” Collins said.

She added that Medicare and Medicaid pay 68 percent of that overall cost, which is expected to grow to $1.1 trillion per year by 2050.

Although federal spending on Alzheimer’s disease research is expected to increase from about $600 million annually to nearly $1 billion next year, Collins said that total is still too low.

“Clearly Alzheimer’s research funding is disproportionately low compared to its human and economic toll,” she said.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican from Charleston who hosted Wednesday’s hearing, said Alzheimer’s disease and other aging-related health problems are a key issue in South Carolina.

“Currently 15 percent of our residents are over the age of 65,” Scott said.

More than 21 percent of Oconee County’s residents are 65 or older, said Martine LaBerge, executive director of Clemson’s Biomedical Engineering Innovation Campus in Greenville.

LaBerge and an official from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston outlined initiatives currently underway in aging-related health research.

Wayne Roper, president of SCBIO, ticked off a number of private-sector life science ventures that his organization has helped get started in the state, including a company working to develop a blood test to detect Alzheimer’s disease before the first symptoms appear.

The panel of speakers at the hearing included Anderson resident Jerry Welch, a retired minister who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007, and his wife, Nancy.

“It is really difficult. It is a hard life,” Nancy Welch said. “There is very little support for the caregiver and also for the patient.”

She said she is more fortunate than many caregivers because her husband takes part in a respite group two days each week.

Jerry Welch said the group helps him deal with the isolation associated with his disease.

“When you get Alzheimer’s, you look around and all of the sudden your friends are gone, your job is gone. It is amazing,” he said. “Your car is gone, your freedom is gone. You are a prisoner.”

Duncan attended Wednesday’s hearing on what would have been his father’s 78th birthday.

“It was tough,” he said.

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U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan talks about toll Alzheimer's disease took on his father

1 comment:

Cindy said...

It's the biggest battle of our time and we're getting started late.