Right now, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's or Dementia and that number is only expected to rise.
A group of local Alzheimer's ambassadors are getting ready to travel to Washington, D.C. to share their stories with lawmakers in hopes of getting more money for funding and passing new policies.
For the advocates, the topic is personal.
"We had planned to retire, really enjoy life and at age 62, all of a sudden, things began to become a little bit different," said Bunky Cox, an Alzheimer's Advocate.
In 2008, Cox's wife was of 32 years was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
Over the next 6 years, Cox would watch the disease progress in his wife, Ginny.
"The last couple of years were a little bit tough, the last few months she was unable to speak," said Cox.
Two days before Thanksgiving in 2014, Ginny passed away.
Amid his wife's diagnosis, Cox became involved with the Mid-South Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association in Huntsville where he first looked for help and guidance in caring for his wife.
"Still was clueless, continued to read and study about how you can make them comfortable, because they are still people," said Cox.
He's stayed actively involved with the organization and he is one of the four making the trip to D.C. for the annual Alzheimer's Advocacy Forum.
Dianne Pierson, of Huntsville, is also making the trip to the nation's Capitol.
She lost her step-father to Alzheimer's and says watching the disease take a toll on her mom is her motivation to fight for a cure.
"She was his 24/7 caregiver. She would have to stay half awake at night in case he tried to get out of bed. Sometimes he was kind of mean, sometimes he was very nice, it just depends. So, I watched her go through all of that," said Pierson.
While at the forum, the group from Huntsville will be joined by advocates nationwide. They are specifically asking for an extra $425 million in Fiscal Year 2019 for research at the National Institutes of Health. In March 2018, Congress approved a historic $414 million increase for research in the Fiscal Year 2018.
Advocates say the funding is still short of the total needed to meet the goal of finding a treatment or cure for the disease.
"We've got to have the research, that has to continue every year there's great things going on, but we're not to that point yet," said Pierson.
They will also ask for co-sponors for the BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer's Act, which would help implement intervention, early detection and diagnosis.
By taking their personal stories to our nation's leaders, they hope to move closer to their goal of ending Alzheimer's.
"My longest term, is to find out first survivor," added Pierson.
"To see the day where there's all white flowers at the walk to end Alzheimer's' and that day is coming," added Cox.
The group will leave Huntsville Saturday and return on Tuesday.
The forum is a yearly event that draws hundreds to the Capitol. For more information on the forum, visit https://www.alz.org/forum/
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