To the editor:

 It’s time to change our thinking about Alzheimer’s. Too often it is thought of as just an old-age disease, ignoring the public health consequences of an illness that claims another victim in the U.S. every 66 seconds. But now, Alzheimer’s has been recognized as a public health issue by the Centers for Disease Control.

Alzheimer’s is also the most expensive disease in America. Two-thirds of its annual cost is paid through Medicare and Medicaid. This year, that translates to a costly $259 billion for the 5.6 million Americans now afflicted.

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Here in New Jersey, we have more than 170,000 Alzheimer’s victims and I am one of the 440,000 New Jerseyans acting as an unpaid family caregiver. It is an exhausting, emotional task that can go on for 15 to 20 years.

Congress now has an opportunity to make an important difference to people like me - and our communities - with the “Build Our Largest Dementia” (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act, endorsed by The Alzheimer’s Association.

The BOLD Act would create a nationwide system that will offer early detection and diagnosis, help to reduce risks and prevent numerous hospitalizations.

The bill calls for centers of excellence to be established as they are for other major diseases. These centers will in turn provide local public health departments with updated information and methods to help those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

I am writing today to ask those served by Rep. Leonard Lance in New Jersey’s 7th District to ask for his support and co-sponsorship of this important legislation. We must finally treat Alzheimer’s like the public health crisis it is, and the BOLD Act (HR 4256) will do that.

Donna Drake, Alzheimer’s Advocate