Hope for Ending Alzheimer's

There is new hope for ending Alzheimer’s Disease.

That was the message I helped deliver last Wednesday before the Senate Select Committee on Aging (watch the video here).

But it wasn’t just my opinion.  I was able to cite three Nobel Prize winning scientists and over 125 other neuroscientists who have proclaimed that with an Apollo moon launch-style national research initiative, it is possible to end Alzheimer’s by 2020.  

This potential breakthrough is so important I want to share it with you.  I believe we are on the cusp of an historic breakthrough.  The best and brightest in the scientific community share this belief.

If you agree, I hope you will contact your House and Senate members today and urge them to support an Alzheimer’s Solution Project (learn more at  

The Most Difficult Part of Alzheimer’s Has Been the Lack of Hope

I first became aware of the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease as a young college teacher.  I was asked to teach a Sunday school class to the older members of the First Baptist Church in Carrollton, Georgia.  I watched as some students in my class went from being totally alert and totally engaged to gradually and inexorably disappearing before my eyes.

For years, this fact has been the most difficult part of Alzheimer’s disease, both for those who suffer from it and those who care for them:  The lack of hope.  

Alzheimer’s has been described as a runaway train; once you or a loved one is on the track of decline, there’s no stopping it.

“It’s Like Caring For a Small Child.  You Can’t Leave Them Unattended.”

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor serves with me on the congressionally created Alzheimer’s Study Group.  Her husband suffers from Alzheimer’s.  

Justice O’Connor describes the progression of her husband’s disease as “a downhill slide, there is no interruption in the process.”

When her husband is left unattended, he wanders off, not knowing where he is or how to return home.  

“It’s like caring for a small child.  You can’t leave them unattended,” says Justice O’Connor, echoing the burden faced by all those — primarily family members — who care for someone with Alzheimer’s.

Maria Shriver Has to Reintroduce Herself to Her Father Each Time She Sees Him

California First Lady Maria Shriver’s father, Sargent Shriver, has Alzheimer’s.  Maria Shriver speaks painfully of having to reintroduce herself to her father when she sees him, and of the helplessness felt by a daughter or son who cares for a parent with the disease.

“No matter who you are, what you’ve accomplished, what your financial situation is, when you are dealing with the parent who has Alzheimer’s, you yourself feel helpless.”  

Every 70 Seconds, Someone in America Develops Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a personal tragedy, but it is also a national crisis.

Last week I presented the Senate committee with these disturbing facts about Alzheimer’s disease, developed by the Alzheimer’s Association:

Alzheimer’s is a growing epidemic:

  • Every 70 seconds someone in America develops Alzheimer’s disease — by 2050, someone will develop Alzheimer’s every 33 seconds.
  • 5.3 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer’s — one-in-eight Americans over 65 and almost one-in-two over 85.
  • 10 million baby boomers will develop the disease.
  • The CDC lists Alzheimer’s disease as the 6th leading cause of death.
  • Today there is no cure, no disease-modifying treatment, and no prevention.

Alzheimer’s places an enormous burden on families:

Alzheimer’s is a family disease.  9,900,000 caregivers provide 94 billion hours of uncompensated care per year.

Healthcare costs for people with Alzheimer’s disease are three times greater than for people with other diseases.

Alzheimer’s places an enormous burden on taxpayers and our health system:

  • In 2005, Medicare spent $91 billion on beneficiaries with Alzheimer’s and other dementias and is projected to spend $189 billion by 2015.
  • Given the present trends, Alzheimer’s will cost Medicare and Medicaid a projected $19.89 trillion between 2010 and 2050.
  • Because people tend to get Alzheimer’s later in life, even a delay of onset has a significant effect in lowering costs. A five year delay would save $8.51 trillion over that same period.

A Rare Moment in History in Which Real Change is Possible
So much for the bad news.

Like I said, my message today to Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s and the millions of family members who are caring for them is one of hope.

I believe we are at one of those rare moments in history where the right elements are coming together to make real change possible.

We have progressed enough in our knowledge of the brain and how it works that, with the right resources and the right experts working together, we could see a fundamental breakthrough in Alzheimer’s disease within the next decade.

In just the past several weeks, almost 200 leading Alzheimer’s research scientists have endorsed the goal of developing the capability to prevent Alzheimer’s by

The Alzheimer’s Solutions Project:  A Roadmap to Ending Alzheimer’s By 2020

Last week, the Alzheimer’s Study Group produced a groundbreaking report that lays out the roadmap to ending Alzheimer’s by 2020.

We propose a national effort, modeled on the Apollo moon launch project or the Manhattan Project, called the Alzheimer’s Solutions Project.  

The Alzheimer’s Solutions Project has three pillars:

1)  Prevent new cases of the disease.  Even preventing the onset of the disease by a few years will yield enormous benefits.

2) Take care of caregivers by reimbursing 20% of health and social services.

3) Make Alzheimer’s a priority of Washington by establishing an Alzheimer’s Solutions Project Office in the federal government.

Americans Can Do Anything.  We Just Have to Decide We Want To Do It.

This is a moment of real hope for Alzheimer’s.  But I think it’s fair to say that the amount of hope we have is at least matched by the amount of effort it will take from all of us to realize this goal.

As important as it was to get this Alzheimer’s Solutions Report written, it is more important for you to go out and talk about it.

So contact your representatives in Washington and tell them you support ending Alzheimer’s by 2020.  Tell them you support giving relief to the millions of Americans who care for Alzheimer’s patients.

Tell Washington you support an Alzheimer’s Solutions Project.

A world without Alzheimer’s is within our grasp.  We just have to reach for it.

Your friend,

Newt’s Quick Links:

Tens of thousands of people are signing up to attend the April 15th Tea Party rallies across the country to protest high taxes and demand better solutions to get the economy moving again.  Go to to find a rally location near you.  And don’t forget to download your Tea Party Tool Kit at

Callista and I, along with Dave Bossie of Citizens United, hosted the Atlanta premiere of Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny on Friday.  Watch Greta van Susteren’s interview with Callista and me at
Bill Forstchen and I have written an op-ed on the danger posed by an electromagnetic pulse attack.  Read it at  Buy Bill’s book about an EMP attack on America here.

Dan Gildoff of US News and World Report wrote a story about our efforts to reunite the fiscal and social conservatives.  You can read it here.