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Headed to Washington

April 23, 2012
Messenger News

To the editor:

Today there are 5.4 million Americans living with Alzheimer's disease. I am one of the nation's nearly 15 million Alzheimer caregivers.

Alzheimer's has affected my life on a personal level in more than one way. With having family members with this disease and working with Alzheimer's patients as a Hospice nurse, I want to help find a cure.

This month, I will be heading to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Alzheimer's Association's Advocacy Forum.

I am going to Washington at a very historic moment. The development of a national Alzheimer's plan is currently under way and I join with many others in the expectation that a plan that is urgent, achievable and accountable will soon be delivered.

As a family member and caregiver, I plan to tell lawmakers about what this disease has done to my family and about the challenges of witnessing Alzheimer's slowly steal a cherished member of my family away - before my very eyes.

More than 15 million friends and family members provide unpaid care valued at $210 billion dollars for a loved one with Alzheimer's or another dementia, including more than 134,000 Iowa caregivers who provide unpaid care valued at $1.8 billion.

Currently the sixth leading cause of death, Alzheimer's is the only cause of death among the top 10 causes without a way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression and among the 5.4 million people living with the disease, 69,000 live right here in Iowa.

We urgently need better treatments for Alzheimer's disease - treatments that can prevent, stop or slow the disease and we also need better ways to identify those at risk for getting the disease, so we can intervene earlier in the disease process.

People from across the country affected by Alzheimer's have made impassioned demands about decisive action from the nation's leaders on Alzheimer's.

As a caregiver who is living on the frontlines of Alzheimer's, I will go to Washington to tell my elected officials their commitment to solving this crisis must match the magnitude of the crisis in order to see real change.

A strong National Alzheimer's Plan means ensuring significant resources are devoted to research and that all possible is being done to help families like mine to better manage the disease today.

I'm going to Washington to use my voice, share my family's experience and create change.

Please join me in helping fight this disease.

Sheila Hefley

Hospice RN

Fort Dodge



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