Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Corenna L. O’Brien, the district director of Congressman Bruce Poliquin’s office, to discuss the cost and impact of Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

The human and financial toll of Alzheimer’s is great, and affects not only the lives of the individuals, but the people around them. I had to stop teaching two years ago at 56 to care full time for my wife, who was diagnosed with younger onset Alzheimer’s after being told “she was too young to have Alzheimer’s” by her primary care provider the previous year.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and the only cause of death without a way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression. Alzheimer’s related costs soared to $259 billion in 2017, $175 billion of which come in direct costs to Medicare and Medicaid. Our health insurance company this year, adjusted the price of one of my wife’s medications for a 90-day supply of generic Donepezil HCL 10mg from $30 to $303.93

Alzheimer’s research is now pointing in the direction that treatment needs to start long before symptoms begin. It was only through research and funding that has allowed new and more effective treatments for diseases like heart disease, cancer and HIV/AIDS. The average long-term cost of treating someone with Alzheimer’s is much greater. Alzheimer’s is on track to bankrupting Medicare and Medicaid.

That is why I am urging our Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Reps. Poliquin and Chellie Pingree to support a $414 million increase for federal Alzheimer’s research funding for the next fiscal year.

It may be too late for people like my wife. However, it is an opportunity for Maine’s Congressional delegation to demonstrate a bipartisan effort and possibly help save our health care system in whatever form it evolves into.

Thomas Frisk

Bangor