Del. Ken Plum: On Combating Alzheimer’s Disease

by Karen Goff August 6, 2015 at 1:00 pm 12 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoDel. Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. His opinion does not reflect that of Reston Now.

In 1982, my then-legislative assistant came to me distressed that her father had been found to have Alzheimer’s disease.

My response was similar to that of many at the time to say, “What is that?” Not much was known about Alzheimer’s before the 1980s. Old people were called senile; some had dementia. If testing to determine the reason for memory loss was negative, the patient was declared to have Alzheimer’s disease — whatever that was.

Soon after I became aware of Alzheimer’s Disease, national news stories started to break about the number of people suffering severe memory loss and the rapid rate at which that number was growing.

After consulting with researchers at the Medical College of Virginia (now the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine), who were doing work in the areas of dementia and Alzheimer’s, I introduced legislation establishing the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Research Award Fund to provide seed money for larger federal and foundation grants.

The Fund continues to today and has shown a 10-to-1 return on money invested by the state in the first state-level research fund. I also introduced legislation establishing the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Commission that continues to do studies and make recommendations on policies related to Alzheimer’s. Its work can be reviewed at Alzpossible.org, including the Dementia State Plan along with lists and descriptions of resources on the subject.

What I never realized when I was first introduced to this subject was the extensive nature of it. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 5.3 million have the disease with women almost twice as likely as men to get it. The direct costs associated with the care of Alzheimer’s sufferers are estimated to be $221 billion. Projected to the year 2050, the number of people with the disease is likely to be 13.8 million Americans with a cost of care of $1.1 trillion.

The effect of the disease on the individuals is devastating; the loss of memory for some can be gradual over many years and for others can be rapid.

In my experience from chairing the Alzheimer’s Study Commission for several years, I found that the effects on family caregivers can be devastating as well. While some resist institutional care, the 24/7 responsibility of caring for someone can take its toll. The number of day programs that can accommodate individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease has expanded as have other opportunities for respite care.

According to the CDC, Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only one in the top 10 for which there is no prevention, cure or effective treatment.

Congress has been slow to appropriate increased monies for expanded medical research. Although there continues to be some hopeful work going on, research and educational programming is highly dependent on individuals contributing through such organizations as the Alzheimer’s Association.

With the projected increase in the number of people affected by Alzheimer’s and the promising effects of genome research, funding should be a priority.

Del. Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. His opinion does not reflect that of Reston Now.

  • Henry Rearden

    I guess even a blind squirrel can find a nut once in a while. I can not see anything wrong with this article. I’m shocked.

    • cRAzy

      Well, you found a nut!

  • Mike M

    Ken, you are a real hero for thinking of a new reason to spend other people’s “seed money.” This may be worthy but isn’t the Federal gubmint doing the same? Should every state and jurisdiction do the same. Wouldn’t that be wasteful and inefficient? This may be a truly worthy cause, but there are many potential worthy causes. Have you ever seen the inevitible need for a trade-off. This would involve taking the truly heroic step of realizing we cannot rhrow endless money at every sad thing. So, let’s decide where we will cut to address true priorities. It’s something that Liberals like you don’t even seem to attempt. You seem to front these issue to sooth your leftists contituency’s incessant need for that warm sense of self-righteousness and world-saving. But what about resource limitations. Adults in the real world deal with that reality every single day.

    • Chuck Morningwood

      Yes, Mike, when it comes down to tax cuts or this, letting old people rot is the right thing to do.

      I just wonder. If you develop Alzheimer’s — when you’re still in the early stage where you know there’s something wrong with you, that your mental faculties are slipping away little by little, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it — I just wonder whether you’ll still feel the same way you do now.

      • Oy Vey

        Way to miss the point about resource constraints. There are countless diseases and problems, and for every single one of them you could say, “how would you feel if you or your family had it?” But we don’t have the money to fund all of them.

        Which is why “how would you feel?” is the wrong way to decide any issue, however much Ken Plum and his slavish followers like that approach.

  • Cluster Tycoon

    There is a strong chance that people voting and supporting Jeb Bush in the next election have Alzheimers. If you’re one of those people and you’re not sure whether you are affected take the Lehman Brothers test. Good luck,

  • Truth Hurts

    just goes to show the type of person Cluster Tycoon truly is that he would take
    a disease afflicting many people from all political spectrums and use it to
    mock people he/she doesn’t politically agree with. You’re a low life.

  • prmisencik sr

    That’s terrific Ken. We appreciate your efforts. Thanks

  • Truth Hurts

    Ok thanks. Alzheimer’s is terrible for both the elder and their family and friends. It’s not cool to use it in name calling. It’s counterproductive. Tone it down if you want me to take you seriously. And yeah we need to stop spending money and lives on other countries problems if we want to find the money to research cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s.
    I don’t get the ‘my hands are clean’ comment. What you didn’t go to war?

    • Cluster Tycoon

      We re just a conceited naked ape, but in our minds we re some divine legend and we see ourselves as some sort of God, seeing we can decide what will live and what will die, what will be saved and what will be destroyed, but honestly we re just a bunch of primates out of control.

  • Mike M

    People get sick and die, and the Republicans won’t jump in with our wallets and try to stop that! Waaaah! Is that it, Chuck?

    • Cluster Tycoon

      Nobody asked you for your useless opinion Mike. And my name is not Chuck just as your family is not monkeys gone wild. So step down from this tree and drop your banana.


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