Soldotna, AK native takes to Capitol Hill after losing her mother to Alzheimer’s

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Almost 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's. That number is expected to rapidly grow in the coming years. The Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, an advocacy arm of the Alzheimer’s Association, is sending thousands to Washington this week to tell their stories.

“The last three years of her life, she did not know my name,” said Cindy Harris, a Soldotna, AK native who lost her mother to the disease.

Harris’ mother struggled with Alzheimer’s for 13 years before she passed away. Cindy made countless trips from her home in Alaska to Colorado to help care for her mother, altering the course of her own life.

“(My life) halted. I mean it came to a stop for all of us trying to take care of her,” said Cindy.

Harris is in Washington this week looking to her representatives, like Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), for more help. Harris won Advocate of the Year as part of the Alzheimer’s Association. She says she won’t stop advocating.

“We’re not there yet because none of the medications are doing what we need them to do for a long trial,” said Harris.

Cindy and the Alzheimer’s Association are pushing their lawmakers for more funding, though they admit they believe Congress has been and remains in their corner.

“We need to be doing more. We’ve made progress. We have so much more to do,” said John Funderburk, the senior director of advocacy at the Alzheimer’s Association.

Funderburk says Congress has been a huge help when it comes to research funding, but he wants more help for caregivers and more attention paid to those diagnosed at a younger age. Murkowski is one of those in charge of the purse strings on Capitol Hill. She met with Harris Tuesday and says she will continue to help fight the disease.

“We got a long ways to go. A lot of people out there who need to have people like you wearing a purple sash and raising the flag today,” said Murkowski.

The amount of Alzheimer’s funding that Congress appropriates will be approved later this year as part of their annual budget.