Alzheimer's Foundation of America

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Advocacy Updates

Statement by Eric J. Hall
Founding President and Chief Executive Officer
Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

Before the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights
“Global Strategies to Combat the Devastating Health and
Economic Impacts of Alzheimer’s Disease”
June 23, 2011

Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Payne, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for convening this hearing and for inviting the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) to testify. I am Eric Hall, AFA’s founding President and CEO, and I am honored to be here today.

My involvement in this cause is not simply a career endeavor and it is more than my family history—as if that would not be enough—but it is a painful result of the many stories I hear from struggling families across our country.  I need to do something, we need to do something—and I beg you to make the most of the present opportunity and make it happen now.

The National Alzheimer’s Project Act passed by Congress last year was a groundbreaking first step toward the creation of a National Alzheimer’s Disease Plan in the United States. However, it’s no secret that the U.S. is behind the curve of several other countries that already have National Alzheimer’s Disease Plans in place or in process. We have a lot of homework to do but we can learn a lot from what has already been done overseas—both in planning and in political commitment.

The next crucial step is for an international meeting of countries with plans in place or in process in the first quarter of 2012. AFA would be honored to serve as an NGO supporting partner in such an effort and would be glad to work with ADI and others. AFA applauds ADI for its financial support of the 10/66 Dementia Research Group and its commitment to international collaboration.

In AFA’s view, the international meeting would ideally consolidate how other countries have approached their plans and would produce a compendium with common threads. Such a meeting would help us develop our plan and help us begin to develop a global approach to this pandemic. The meeting would also include a day or more of panel discussions on established policies as well as innovative care programs abroad as well as those in the U.S., of which there are many. There is little doubt we can get there faster by reviewing what has already been done, what has been successful, and what to avoid.

One example that the U.S. can learn from is the award-winning dementia care available in Israel through Melabev. Melabev is the founding member organization of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of Israel and together they share a combined commitment to serve the Alzheimer’s population in Israel. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of Israel is a nonprofit organization that I established in January 2011 through the Alzheimer’s Foundation International (AFI)—an outgrowth of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

Melabev has spent the past 30 years developing therapeutic activities that give people with dementia and Alzheimer's disease a reason to get up in the morning. In addition to its day centers, Melabev also brings services and activities right into the family home. Each individual with dementia is given a geriatric assessment and a range of healthcare professionals are available for working with the individual and the family members under their roof.

Not only does Melabev care for the person with dementia, but also for the family caregivers. It provides palliative care for individuals in the end stages of the disease as well as guidance on end of life issues for the whole family. In between regularly scheduled house calls the members of the team are accessible by phone whenever needed. Melabev gives families a shoulder to lean on.

Israel also has groundbreaking geriatric programs at Herzog Hospital in Jerusalem, whose motto is “Restoring dignity for all.” Herzog Hospital is currently the only facility in Israel to combine neurological, behavioral and social approaches in treating the full range of geriatric illnesses— including Alzheimer’s disease. Most uniquely, Herzog also has a specialized emergency room for behavioral and psychiatric issues; and all staff persons—from physicians to social workers—are trained in geriatric approaches to care.

Melabev and Herzog Hospital in Israel are just two examples of the many innovative programs available throughout the world. A Congressional call for an international meeting is how we’ll learn more. And if we do things right, an international movement will follow.

I’m going to end with a quote from Peter Drucker, a writer who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2002. He said, “Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” AFA looks forward to working with Members of the Subcommittee to address the important issues raised in today’s hearing. Thank you again for the opportunity to testify, and I would be glad to answer any questions.