Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) recently introduced Alzheimer’s Action Now, a package of four bills that will help Alzheimer’s patients and their families. The legislation aims to promote public awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and encourage voluntary contributions to research efforts.

The package offers provisions to address every aspect of diagnosing, treating, and living with Alzheimer’s.  The Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Act (H.R. 3090) authorizes grants to public and non-profit organizations to expand training and support services for families and caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. The Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3091) reauthorizes a Department of Justice program that helps local communities and law enforcement officials quickly identify persons with Alzheimer’s disease who wander away from their homes and reunite them with their families. The Alzheimer’s Disease Semipostal Stamp Act (H.R. 3092) requires the U.S. Postal Service to issue and sell a semipostal stamp, with the proceeds helping to fund Alzheimer’s research at NIH and raise public awareness and encourage concerned individuals to get involved and make voluntary contributions to Alzheimer’s research efforts. The Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education (HOPE) for Alzheimer’s Act (H.R. 1559) calls for a significant increase in Alzheimer’s research funding and declares that achieving the primary goal of the National Plan is to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s by 2025.

“Alzheimer’s Action Now, if enacted, will encourage quality care of Alzheimer’s patients and assist their families,” Smith said on the House floor on July 17, when the package was introduced. “The support offered through these policies will have a direct and positive impact on the 15 million Americans who act as unpaid caregivers, and help enable them to continue their heroic service to their loved ones.”

The package was introduced right before the Alzheimer’s International Conference that ran from July 18 to July 23.

African Americans are almost twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than other populations due to genetic, biological and socioeconomic reasons, according to CBC.  As increased numbers of African Americans are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, physicians are noting correlations between the disease and chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension brought on by poor diet and stress.

Cognitive, or intellectual, symptoms of Alzheimer’s include amnesia (or memory loss), aphasia (an inability to communicate effectively), apraxia (inability to do pre-programmed motor tasks, or to perform activities of daily living such as brushing teeth and dressing), and agnosia (inability to correctly interpret signals from their five senses – such as recognizing chest pain).  Additionally, major psychiatric symptoms, including personality changes, depression, hallucinations and delusions, have been noted by scientists.

“With more than five million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, we must do everything we can to confront this disease and help the patients and families who are struggling to live with it,” Waters said on the House floor.  “Our nation is at a critical crossroads. The situation requires decisive action to search for a cure and protect the millions of Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s disease. Together, we must take every possible action to improve treatments for Alzheimer’s patients, support caregivers, raise public awareness, and invest in research to find a cure for this dreadful disease.”