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Justice O’Connor’s Life Touched by Alzheimer’s

Speaking out about her husband’s Alzheimer’s, retired United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor told senators Wednesday that the disease of Alzheimer’s takes a “staggering toll” on families. She stated, “our nation is certainly ready to get deadly serious about this s deadly disease.” Justice O’Connor clearly conveyed her main message to the Special Committee on Aging: that Alzheimer’s research must be expanded, and it will take both public and private efforts.

O’Connor testified with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who also spoke of the need for more funds for Alzheimer’s research. Both O’Connor and Gingrich are members of the Alzheimer’s Study Group, a task force of national leaders developing a plan to address the hardships and costs of the brain disease that affects memory and behavior. Some of O’Connor’s comments include, “living with this disease has been sad and difficult for my entire family…The disease begins quietly, with memory difficulties that gradually become more serious and much more frightening with each passing year. Then, what follows is confusion…impaired judgment…trouble expressing even the simplest thoughts…disorientation…and socially inappropriate behavior.”

O’Connor urged for approval of speedier clinical trials of Alzheimer’s treatments and emphasized the urgent need for treatment options.

Committee Chairman Senator Herb Kohl opened the session of the Special Committee on Aging by saying that almost 10 million Americans are caring for a person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. An estimated 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s.

We applaud Justice O’Connor’s willingness to step forward and share such a private matter in order to seek help for others.

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