Over twenty years ago, we put together a recognition breakfast for long time Alzheimer’s champion Senator Henry Mello. Our then Board President Tim Millar recognized that Senator Mello “cared about Alzheimer’s years before my father was diagnosed,” and thanked him for the State programs that addressed Alzheimer’s – programs very much under the budget gun today.
At the time, I was in the midst of learning a new job, trying to understand how we would move concern for our cause and improve the quality of life for the passionate Alzheimer’s families whose sense of urgency was palpable. Tim’s wide lens, “work before and beyond me” perspective struck me as an “aha!” moment that continues to inform.
As of February, I will have engaged this issue as staff for 25 years, but when I’m no longer in this role, Alzheimer’s will still be with us. When today’s champions retire or simply tire, the movement will certainly continue. We are organized, we are committed, we are relentless. Thousands of staff and tens of thousands of volunteers across the country get up every day thinking about Alzheimer’s, how to end it and how to improve the quality of life for those who live with it.
We worry about the young scientists looking for a way into the field. We worry about the newly diagnosed and their families. We worry about today’s “worried well” and tomorrow’s newly diagnosed. We worry that, although we fund more research than any private non-profit, it is far too little. We worry that despite every call, despite every support group, that the daily struggle of millions of families is far too difficult. As the national organizing vehicle for the millions of families touched by this disease, we worry because we know that over half of the 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s will never be diagnosed.
We were working at this 30 years ago and we’ve made progress. If needed, we’ll still be at it in 30 years, when people who don’t think about Alzheimer’s today will reach out to join us. We won’t stop, we can’t quit, we will continue with the steady momentum and perseverance of our founders.
Wm H. Fisher, firstname.lastname@example.org