Congresswoman Waters Urges International Action to Address the Global Challenges of Alzheimer’s Disease
Today on Capitol Hill, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), the Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, submitted a statement urging international action to address the global challenges of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias during a hearing in the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The subject of the hearing was “The Global Challenge of Alzheimer’s: The G-8 Dementia Summit and Beyond.”
The Congresswoman’s statement follows:
“I would like to thank Chairman Chris Smith, my Republican Co-Chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as Ranking Member Karen Bass, for organizing this hearing and inviting me to participate.
“This hearing, “The Global Challenge of Alzheimer’s: The G-8 Dementia Summit and Beyond,” addresses an important topic. As the Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, I know how devastating Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can be for individuals and families.
“Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia primarily affect the elderly. As populations age, more individuals are likely to be affected by these conditions. According to the World Health Organization, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60 to 70 percent of dementia cases worldwide.
“Here in the United States, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death, and it affects over five million American families. One in nine Americans age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s, and one in three Americans age 85 and older suffers from this disease. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that more than 7 million Americans over age 65 will have Alzheimer’s by the year 2025. Every 68 seconds, another person in the United States develops Alzheimer’s.
“Most Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease live at home under the care of family and friends. More than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Caregivers include spouses, children, and grandchildren. Caregivers face a variety of challenges, ranging from assisting patients with feeding, bathing, and dressing to helping them take their medications, managing their finances, and making legal decisions.
“Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia present growing challenges not just in the United States but also in many countries around the world. According to data compiled by the Congressional Research Service, more than 35 million people worldwide suffered from dementia in 2010. By the year 2050, that number is expected to increase by 224 percent to more than 115 million people.
“The first G-8 Dementia Summit will be held on December 11th in the United Kingdom. The purpose of the summit is to bring health ministers, researchers, physicians, industry leaders, and others together to discuss how they can coordinate efforts and shape an effective international solution to dementia.
“The World Health Organization estimates that more than half of global dementia cases are in low- and middle-income countries. The Congressional Research Service projected that by 2050, there will be 8.7 million people with dementia in Africa, 16.1 million people with dementia in Latin America, 29.2 million people with dementia in South/Southeast Asia, and 30.8 million people with dementia in East Asia.
“Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias present special challenges in low- and middle-income countries. In high-income countries, institutions like nursing homes provide care for many of the individuals who are suffering from dementia, and programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and social services for seniors provide financial support to families struggling to care for an affected loved one. However, in most low- and middle-income countries, public medical and social services for people with dementia are rare. Consequently, care for individuals with dementia in these countries is predominantly the responsibility of their families.
“Countries that have been heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS face additional challenges in dealing with dementia. Millions of children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS, and grandparents play an important role in raising many of these children. According to UNAIDS, nearly 17 million children worldwide have lost at least one parent to HIV/AIDS, and almost 90 percent of them live in Africa. UNAIDS further estimates that, in some countries, more than half of all children who lost a parent to HIV/AIDS are being cared for by a grandparent. The difficulties for families and communities could be tremendous if some of these grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren begin to develop dementia and need care themselves.
“These are just a few of the many challenges that increasing rates of Alzheimer’s and dementia could pose to the international community. I hope that the G-8 Dementia Summit will give the international community an opportunity to discuss these challenges and begin to develop comprehensive strategies to address them. I support the participation of U.S. officials in the Summit, and I look forward to hearing their report on the Summit’s achievements.
“Once again, I thank my colleagues, Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Bass, for allowing me to participate in this hearing, and I look forward to discussing the G-8 Dementia Summit with them and working to alleviate the global burden of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.”