Helping San Diegans cope with Alzheimer’s disease

As with so many issues involving medical research and health care, San Diego County is ground zero in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease. That’s why I was so pleased to help moderate “A Community Discussion on Alzheimer’s,” sponsored by Biocom and Biogen that recently took place in San Diego.

The event covered all aspects of the disease, including its impact on family, friends and caregivers, as well as scientific research that may eventually find a cure.

Currently, it is estimated that 65,000 persons are living with the disease locally, a number that is expected to increase to 94,000 people by 2030. Another 150,000 San Diegans are caring for loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s, the county’s third leading cause of death.

Unfortunately, finding a cure has been elusive. Despite billions spent on research and a number of clinical trials, many of which are now underway here in San Diego, only four drugs for treatment have been approved since 2000.

I moderated a panel that included Mary Ball, president and CEO of Alzheimer’s San Diego, and Dr. Lisa Heikoff, former physician in charge at Kaiser Permanente. Discussions ranged from early warning signs to support and resources available to patients, family and friends alike. A question and answer session with all panelists followed.

The fight to find a cure goes on and so must support for caregivers and family members. For its part, Alzheimer’s San Diego helped 36,000 San Diegans by providing free programs and services last year. Programs include education, support groups, respite care, social activities for those with dementia and much more.

As a member of the Assembly Health Committee for the past three years, I look forward to continuing to do my small part to improve health care in California and hopefully, to win the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

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