Recent decades have seen an extraordinary shift in our expectations when we are confronted with what once were terminal illnesses. With access to quality healthcare, diseases that were once death sentences are now treatable. 

I am writing this letter to help raise awareness that with the dedication and resources that have successfully turned the tables on other previously terminal illnesses, the first Alzheimer’s disease survivor could be alive right now. 

Americans must understand that finding a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease is critical. More than 5.4 million people in our country have Alzheimer’s disease and it is the only disease in the top-10 causes of death for which no prevention, treatment nor cure exists – it is 100 percent lethal. 

As a result, this year alone, the federal government will spend more than $160 billion caring for people with Alzheimer’s, and as the baby boomer generation ages, this number will grow every year. 

In my role as an Alzheimer’s Association Ambassador, I work with other advocates to build congressional support for funding Alzheimer’s research. Representative Danny Davis has supported increasing federal research funding in the past, but we still have yet to hit even half of the $2 billion per year level that National Institutes of Health leaders say is necessary to beat this disease, so we need his support again. 

With the past history of successes that we have seen from the NIH, we can expect our investments to pay off — as long as we can make them. Not only is the first survivor of Alzheimer’s out there, millions more are. 

Lela Grimble