For the past eight days, I have been walking—a journey of more than 200 miles in total. I chose to make this trek for each and every one of more than 5 million people suffering with Alzheimer’s disease—and in particular, for my father, Lt. Col. Carl Rabon Stephens, who is a retired army chaplain.
Why am I walking to Washington, D.C.? Because we need to ensure the passage of $100 million dollars for Alzheimer’s research and support programs in the FY2013 federal budget. The opportunity to elicit change is now and it begins with me. My voice is powerful, and I want to use it on behalf of my dad.
My father spent his whole life caring for others in crisis and Alzheimer’s disease no longer allows him to do so. In just one short year, he lost the ability to continue his work with chaplains at Walter Reed Hospital as an expert on how to counsel soldiers coming home from Iraq. The idea that one day he will no longer have these memories—those of his family and the countless families he has helped—is unbearable.
My father was recently moved into a nursing home because his wife and I can no longer provide the level of care he now requires. As families each and every day shoulder the tremendous emotional, physical and financial toll of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s day after day, year after year, they need action today. They cannot wait and neither can I.
I am walking to Washington, D.C. to bring awareness to this worldwide health crisis and help focus attention on the urgent need for more research funding to help find effective treatments and ultimately a cure. The current national level of Alzheimer’s research funding pales in comparison to other diseases and the time is now to attack this problem with the same level of commitment that we have other major life threatening diseases.
The investments made in research funding for cancer, heart disease and HIV/AIDs (close to $14 billion combined annually) have had positive results. They have resulted in more lives saved and more money saved in direct care costs. As a nation, we are currently investing nearly $500 million for Alzheimer’s research and Alzheimer’s will cost the nation $200 billion in direct care costs in 2012 – this includes $140 billion in Medicare and Medicaid costs. There is something wrong with this picture! I am walking to create a picture, a new future and new possibility. I am walking to help change the trajectory of Alzheimer’s disease.
During my journey, I plan to bring this to the attention of any and all I can, through local, regional and national media, and by sitting down with as many elected officials as will meet with me. While my voice is powerful, our voices together are more powerful.
I want to encourage others—volunteers, caregivers, people with the disease, family members, YOU — to join me. Tell your story and reach out to your members of Congress to urge them to ensure the inclusion of $100 million in Alzheimer’s research funding in next year’s federal budget. Sign up for a local Walk to End Alzheimer’s®. Sign up to be an Alzheimer’s advocate. Be part of the movement to end Alzheimer’s. There is not a lot we can do for those who have passed on or who are currently fighting this disease, but we owe it to them to do everything we can to treat and ultimately end this insidious disease for future generations.
Together we can shift the course of Alzheimer’s disease. Now is the time! Please join me!
- Get Involved with World Alzheimer’s Month!
- Become an Alzheimer’s Advocate
- If You Have Alzheimer’s
- Caring for Alzheimer’s
About the Blog Author: Dave Stephens is the President of the Board of Directors of the Alzheimer’s Association of South Eastern Virginia. His father, Lt. Col. Carl Rabon Stephens, is living with Alzheimer’s. Dave resides in Virginia Beach with his wife, Debbie, and is the proud father of a 21 year-old daughter.