Actress Gay Harden, an Alzheimer’s Caregiver, Testifies Before Senate Aging Panel

Actress Marcia Gay Harden Testifies Before Senate Aging Panel — Photo Credit: Alzheimer’s Association

Last week, Academy Award-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden, who recently published a personal memoir, “The Seasons of My Mother: A Memoir of Love, Family, and Flowers,” detailing her relationship with her mother who is living with Alzheimer’s and the effect of the disease on her mother and her family, came to Capitol Hill to urge Congress to continue to prioritize critical legislation and disease-research funding increases.

Harden, whose acting career includes winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play and currently stars in CBS’s “Code Black.” testimony before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging on June 19, highlighted the emotional and financial toll Alzheimer’s and other dementias take on millions of family caregivers.

Harden Calls on Congress to Support BOLD Legislation

There is no medicine yet, no surgery yet to grasp the dangling thread of memory, to rethread the needle and weave it back into her tapestry and connect thoughts to memory and life experience, to allow her to remember her life,” said Harden of her mother’s disease. “Instead, as the patient and family wait impatiently, more threads unravel, more dangling thoughts, the tapestry of her life slowly disintegrates, the picture is blurred and memory is lost,” she says.

Harden explained that victims and families share her frustrations, and she praised the recent introduction of the S. 2076 and its companion measure, H.R. 4256, Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act, to help improve the nation’s response to Alzheimer’s.  This bipartisan legislation, authored by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Bob Casey, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging panel, and cosponsored by 35 bipartisan Senators, would create the public health infrastructure needed to combat Alzheimer’s and preserve brain health.

In her testimony, delivered during the Committee’s hearing Changing the Trajectory of Alzheimer’s: Reducing Risk, Detecting Early Symptoms, and Improving Data, Harden urged lawmakers to pass the bipartisan legislation, that would assist public health departments across the country to create education initiatives, along with promoting early diagnosis, risk reduction, care management, and caregiver support.  Finally, BOLD would direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to expand its collection of data on cognitive decline, caregiving, and health disparities.  It would also establish Centers of Excellence in Public Health Practice dedicated to promoting Alzheimer’s disease management and caregiving interventions as well as educating the public on Alzheimer’s disease and brain health.

“As scientists continue to search for a way to prevent, cure, or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s through medical research, public health can play an important role in promoting brain health and cognitive function, and reducing the risk of cognitive decline,” said Harden, calling on Congress to invest in a nationwide Alzheimer’s public health response to enhances the quality of life of person’s with the devastating mental disorder and their caregivers.

Lisa C. McGuire PhD, of Atlanta, Georgia-based, Alzheimer’s Disease and Healthy Aging Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Teresa Osborne, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Aging, Gareth Howell, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Jackson Laboratory, located at Bar Harbor Maine, and Cheryll Woods-Flowers, a family caregiver from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, joined Harden to give their thoughts about the pending Alzheimer’s legislation.

 Alzheimer’s Advocates Lobby Congress

On the day of the Senate Aging Committee hearing, to reinforce the witnesses’ testimony, more than 1,200 Alzheimer’s Association advocates met with their Congressman and Senators during the 30th Annual Alzheimer’s Association AIM Advocacy Forum, the nation’s premier Alzheimer’s disease advocacy event.

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