To the Editor:

I was introduced to dementia for the first time back in 2012 when my dad was diagnosis with dementia. As my dad’s caregiver, for 2½ years I watched my dad who was a Christian change into a totally different person and slowly die.

There were times I would cry and tell the doctors “I want my dad back.” My dad passed away at 4:09 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. Then one year and 13 days after my dad passed away, my uncle (my mom’s brother) was diagnosis with dementia. I could not believe this was happening to my family again.

Since I had experienced this disease, I had to prepare my mom for what she was about go through with my uncle, and I stepped up and became my uncle’s caregiver. This time the experience with harder in that I had to watch my 74-year-old mom watch her brother slowly die. I recall my mom asking me constantly “Is Robert going to get well?” Painfully I had to tell my mom “No.”

My uncle passed away at 1:32 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. This was extremely hard on my mom because my mom and my uncle were the only two surviving siblings out of five, and now my mom is the only one left. My uncle was a Christian. I promised my uncle that I would join the fight against Alzheimer’s until a cure is found.

An estimated 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, including 120,000 in Tennessee. In addition to being the sixth-leading cause of death in the nation, Alzheimer’s ranks as the most expensive. In 2019, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the nation $290 billion, including $195 billion in Medicare and Medicaid payments.

In 2018, Tennessee had the fourth-highest Alzheimer’s death rate in America. (The cost to TennCare was $1 billion). Of the top 10 causes of death, this is the only disease where there is no prevention, no treatment and no cure.

I would like to encourage Congressman DesJarlais to join the fight against Alzheimer’s by signing on to two critical pieces of legislation: the Improving HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act and the Younger-Onset Alzheimer’s Act, both of which would bring critical changes to the lives of Tennesseans suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Dennis Nipper


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