MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama lawmakers will get an earful Wednesday about the need for increased care and support for those facing Alzheimer's disease. It's the Alzheimer's Association Advocacy Day in Alabama.
"Alzheimer's affects over 5 million Americans and over 90,00 of those people live here in Alabama," said Shea Summerlin, founder of and advocacy group called All In for Alzheimer's. "It not only affects the person with the disease but their families and caregivers."
Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the united states. It kills more people every year than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined, and it's the only top 10 cause of death that can't be prevented, cured or even slowed. Summerlin believes the best way to change those numbers is to start talking about the disease.
"Alzheimer's Disease has had such a stigma, and I think once we being to talk about the disease and realize how it's affecting our communities. Whether or not it's affecting your family, it's affecting your pocketbook, and it's affecting your community's vibrancy. And I think once we start this conversation and continue it, we'll be able to find cures or find ways to treat this disease."
As part of Alzheimer's Advocacy Day, family caregivers, professional caregivers, and community members will share their personal and professional experiences with Alzheimer's disease in face-to-face meetings with state senators and representatives. They'll also be encouraging those lawmakers to pass HB310, a bill that would require law enforcement officers and first responders to go through training in dealing with Alzheimer's patients.
"Because in their jobs, they may come across them when someone with Alzheimer's gets lost, when they get disoriented, or maybe even when they pose a threat to themselves or others. So we want them to be prepared," Summerlin explained.
There is encouraging news from the fight against Alzheimer's Disease. "Federal funding for Alzheimer's has increased to almost $1 billion in the last few years, which is exciting because researchers believe once we hit the $2 billion mark we might see cures," Summerlin said. "Memory loss is not a normal part of aging, memories should last a lifetime"
The Alzheimer's Association is also planning a rally on the steps of the State House for Wednesday at 1 p.m.