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Nationwide, an estimated 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimerís disease, including as many as 86,000 Maryland residents. By 205,0 as many as 16 million Americans will have this disease that slowly steals memories, independence, autonomy and so much more

Now the nationís sixth leading cause of death, Alzheimerís is unmatched in the scale of its devastating human and economic impact There is no other chronic disease that affects so many without a way to cure, prevent or even slow its progression.

One in three Americans say they know someone with Alzheimerís. There are nearly 15 million family members and friends providing care for a loved one with Alzheimerís and dementia. Families shouldering the tremendous emotional, physical and financial toll of caring for a loved one with Alzheimerís need action now.

Beyond the sheer numbers of lives touched by the disease, the financial impact on our nation is staggering. Alzheimerís cost the nation $183 billion today. That amount will soar to $1 trillion by midcentury. Medicare costs will increase nearly 600 percent and Medicaid nearly 400 percent if we do nothing.

The National Alzheimerís Project Act (NAPA), signed into law in January 2011, requires the creation of a national strategic plan to address the rapidly escalating Alzheimerís disease crisis and will coordinate Alzheimerís disease efforts across the federal government. The Advisory Council on Alzheimerís Research, Care and Services, created by NAPA to coordinate federal agencies conducting Alzheimerís-related care, services and research, met in mid-January to review the first draft framework of a National Alzheimerís Plan.

This is an historic moment. We need a meaningful allocation of resources in the presidentís upcoming budget if we are committed to finding a cure. While a cure is the ultimate goal, even delaying disease onset of slowing progression by five years could result in dramatic savings and improved quality of life for millions of individuals.

We are at a critical juncture in time where the creation of a strategic plan to address the escalating Alzheimerís crisis is within our grasp, but we need a marshalling of resources, expertise and innovation for the millions today living with this disease and the millions more tomorrow who may face it. Our nationís leaders must follow through and fulfill their commitment with a strong plan supported by the necessary resources to alter the course of Alzheimerís disease.

Alzheimerís wonít wait. I invite you to take action today by signing our petition to President Obama at www.alz.org. Urge the president to take the next bold step forward in the fight against Alzheimerís and fulfill the promise of the National Alzheimer's Project Act passed unanimously by Congress more than a year ago. Tell him millions of families are counting on him to fulfill the potential of NAPA when he releases his upcoming Budget Request.

Now is the time to create a world without Alzheimerís. Families wonít forget.

Susan Kudla Finn, Fairfax, Va.

The writer is the president and CEO of the Alzheimerís Association National Capital Area Chapter.