Sep 192012
 

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!

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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.

 

  12 Responses to “I Am Taking Action Because Those Affected by Alzheimer’s Can’t Wait!”

  1. Good luck to you, Dave, and thanks for what you are doing. My family is dealing with Alzheimer's in our dad, who was also in the service, in WWII in the Navy. As he loses his memory backwards, he talks more about his days in the Navy, since he is getting back to that stage in his mind. We just completed a Walk to End Alzheimer's at St. Mary's College, Notre Dame, Indiana on Saturday, Sept. 15. Our team alone raised $1,605 but I don't know the total amount raised. Thanks for encouraging others to get involved. This unspeakable disease has to end. No one can know unless they experience it, what it is like to see your loved one slipping away from you a little more each day.

  2. I think it is wonderful Dave is doing. We need to get more people involved. I lost my wonderful husband last year with dementia. I became an Ambassador, and advocate for the Alzheimer's Association. I salute you Dave for what you are doing. Together we can do this. I can indeed VISION A WORLD WITHOUT ALZHEIMER'S !!!!!

  3. I love you Mr. Stephens. Thank you for your dedication to find help for those who suffer with Alzheimer's Disease. Watching my intelligent, articulate father lose his words, and then his mind, was the saddest thing I have ever experienced. It is a sad thing when you hope "the cancer" takes your loved one, so you don't have to see their mind completely gone.

  4. Good for you, Dave! I just spent a year providing in-home care for my 85 year old mother. I needed to return to my home in Alaska and she had to go into a facility. She is a beautiful, caring, talented person and it is so hard to watch someone you love become a vanishing shell of the person they once were. There are no ALZ walks in the whole state of Alaska (at least the last time I checked) and that is so sad. It seems like most people do not have a clue as to the devastation of this disease and the looming epidemic. Research has to be funded at a higher rate. There are so many promising research leads:
    Immunization prevent beta-amyloid clumps in brain
    IVs of anti-amyloid antibodies from donor blood
    Production blockers of parent proteins that produce beta-amyloids from 2 enzymes
    Develop drug to target tau tangles in brain, nasal spray currently under study
    Develop drug to fight brain cell inflammation
    Further research on how heart disease, insulin &AD connect? http://www.MayoClinic.com

    The progression of this disease needs to be slowed down in individuals and preventing it in the next generation. This can only happen when legislation, like the ALZ Breakthrough Act of 2011 is passed and more adequate money is appropriated for research. It is too late for your father and my mother, we have to suffer as we watch the disease run its course, but it is not too late for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren not to be subjected to this mind-wasting disease.

    Good luck on your journey and I hope that folks in DC remember and honor your father's years of dedicated service by doing something to further the cause!

    • I also have a policy brief that I developed for my graduate gerontology class. It has pics of my mother and her great-grand-daughters. I would love to be able to do something useful with it. I would want to check with my nieces to get their permission to post, but I bet they would not mind. I would need an email address to send it to. Thanks!

      Deneise Weyhmiller, I just sent post for approval

  5. So proud of you for doing this, be safe and strong

  6. Dave I honor you and that wonderful dad who raised such a caring son I am a care giver I feel your pain so we walk to end this fearful thing called alzheimers

  7. God bless you, Dave. Best of luck on your journey, and continued luck to you on the remainder of your journey with your dad. It is hard to believe my dad will be gone 2 years on October 22. I still miss him every day. Each day we work to make more people aware of Alzheimer's and the damage it leaves along the way. Thank you for your efforts!

  8. So ironic because my dad also helped in his nature many people and even helped a neighbor get home becase he was lost in the woods and couldnt remember where he was and now dad has alzheimers.So hard to take . I try to remember the positive as well.

  9. Dave, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I lost my husband 4 months ago and the pain is still unbearable. I have a neurological disease that keeps me from being able to walk any distance, or I would be right there with you. I try to help as much as I can by spreading the message online. We're all in this fight together and hopefully will get the money we so need for our cause.

  10. I had no idea my mom had Alzheimers. I was told she had slight dementia and then recently after being found wondering on the freeway where she had fallen, I was told she had "dimentia". I questioned the doctor as to what type of Dimentia she has and was finally told two months ago, she had Alzheimer"s. I plead ignorant. I always thought it was a minor memory problem. I had no guidance of what it is and what to do. thanks to Alz.Org, I don't feel alone. I would love to know how I can help you – do yiou need petitions signed or what?

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