“It’s impossible to talk about Alzheimer’s without talking about the caregivers,” Collins said.
Collins called for more Alzheimer's funding and research before touring the Stewart Adult Day Center, a facility of the Southern Maine Agency on Aging in Falmouth. The center, opened in 2014, provides day services for dementia patients.
“What a difference it makes to be able to bring your loved ones to a place they can be entertained and be able to give yourself a much-needed break,” Collins said.
Collins, the chair of the Senate's Aging Committee and co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease, said the need if great for more places like the Stewart Center. She said she was impressed by the variety of activities and programs offered at the center, noting how they gave dementia sufferers a chance to socialize.
“It improves the quality of life for everyone,” she said. “We are disproportionately affected by this disease that strikes our seniors.”
Collins noted that Congress approved a $2 billion funding increase last year for the National Institutes of Health, which included a $350 million bump for Alzheimer's research funding. Total funding for 2016 stands at $936 million.
The funding boost, Collins said, was necessary because Alzheimer treatments would drain Medicare and Medicaid resources if better treatments or a cure were not found.
Collins also took the opportunity to speak about the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act -- legislation aimed at developing a national plan of support for the country's 40 million Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers.
Collins introduced the measure, which was passed last month by the Senate, along with Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
“I’m convinced more respite centers are part of the answer,” Collins said.
Collins has represented the state of Maine in the U.S. Senate since 1997. Born in Caribou, Maine, in 1952, Collins previously served on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security from 2003 to 2007. Collins was educated at St. Lawrence University and married to Thomas Daffron. She serves on the following committees: U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, Committee on Armed Services, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Special Committee on Aging.