By Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Testimony to the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging

May 14, 2008

Testimony to the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging
Type: Testimony
Location: The United States Senate Special Committee on Aging

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Sandra Day O'Connor
Committee. Thank you so much for having the hearing and for inviting us to share a few minutes with you this morning. I think the members of this committee are probably more knowledgeable than any of us about this disease you exhibited from your statements already a depth of knowledge and understanding about the problem that tells me you're not going to learn anything new from us today. But Speaker Gingrich and I are both serving on this study group, which we hope within the span of a year to be able to come back with some recommendations. I'm sure that as members of the committee interested in it, you will have heard many of the recommendations already, but perhaps we can shed some further light on it, but I'm here in the position of being a caregiver. My beloved husband, john suffers from Alzheimer's. He's had it for a long time now. And he's not in very good shape at present. And so I have some appreciation for the depth of feeling that you have that's generated the interest and the people who are in this room today. You magnify that by people in every state of this country, and you will understand the depth of concern that's out there. This is a really difficult disease because it has no cure as yet. And if the work that you do by funding research in this area, and by considering the laws I congratulate you on the one you just passed, to enable people to get an early diagnosis and Not there by for but forfeit the right to get long term care insurance. That's really important. And I congratulate you on addressing that and doing something about it. That should help my own sons. I have not wanted to go be tested, even though obviously with their father and the condition he is they should know, but out of the fear that they would then be ineligible for insurance. So you've done a wonderful thing in getting that legislation before us.

And researchers really haven't clearly determined yet why some of us get Alzheimer's and others do not. We don't totally understand the biological process that caused these devastating effects. But researchers are closer today than ever before in developing some proposed drug treatments that might dissolve the amyloid plaque in the brain. But that's going to require serious clinical testing. I mean, if you're going to dissolve something in the brain, you want to be sure it isn't the brain itself. So that's why the studies are lengthy to make it something that we can trust to us and, but if you can just shave off by five years the onset of Alzheimer's, broadly speaking, think of the money you'd save nationally on health care. I mean, it just, it's incredible. So everything you're doing is worth it. And it does take a staggering toll on the families and the caregivers. I can certainly attest to that. Now, I don't know what the official thinking is on the expansion of it in the future, but the doctors who take care of my husband tell me that one and two people over 80 are going to have Alzheimer's. Now I'm getting pretty close to eight So that gets my attention. I think a lot of people will be concerned when they look at it from that standpoint. And what we have to ask is whether this rapid growth is inevitable. And I think it's not if we can fund the research and encourage it, and enable testing to be done, and get clinical trials coordinated, and broadly based so that maybe they don't have to go on forever. We might even encourage drug companies to do more, if they thought that they could somehow extend the life of the patent. I mean, it could take you 15 years to do the testing. And if the patent life is 17 years, you're not going to have a lot of encouragement there for this kind of thing.

So I think the committee has a need for considering coordinated approaches to what we need. Do because this is a problem that cries out for help. And we do need additional research. We need to continue to teach people how to care for Alzheimer's patients, it's better if they can stay home. But they reach a point where often they can't. daycare is helpful at earlier stages of the Alzheimer's patient. Very helpful. And so how can we do that? And I think that our nation is certainly ready to get deadly serious about this deadly disease. And I think that your approach here in the committee and and Congress encourages me to think that you're quite well informed and quite interested in doing something about it. I think we have to expand the research efforts, and we have to encourage the sharing of research data across the country with those who can help Further this process, and I hope that we can encourage the private investment that it's going to take to, to make drugs, treatment drugs in this area widely available to the public. And we certainly need to encourage the support systems that we have for the families and the patients themselves. And I just thank you for focusing on this and for sharing with each other, and with everyone in this room, your own personal experiences with it, their heart rending as everybody in this room can get you. Thanks.


Sandra Day O'Connor
Senator Smith, we have switched John over to something called Evercare for the medical advice in the care center of where he is, and it works quite well. I don't know how many of you have had any exposure to that but I've been pleasantly surprised right Play with the coordination of the advice and care that he is given and right in the center. He doesn't have to be hauled out to a specialist hither and yon. They have a coordinated MediCal program that comes to him and it's helpful. And as Evercare is generally available yours is something you it is and and your staff can provide you information about it. I've been pleasantly surprised.