This year brought my first Father’s Day without my father. My father passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s disease in October 2010. He was 77.

My father was a gregarious, intelligent, educated man, who never met someone who was not a friend. He spent 20 years serving our country in the U.S. Army, including two tours in Vietnam. After his service, he worked for 20 years in the U.S. General Accounting Office. He was an avid runner; completing 25 U.S. Marine Corp marathons, his last at the age of 72.

At the time of his diagnosis, at the age of 68, he was an otherwise healthy and contributing member of his community and his church.

Alzheimer’s is a terrible and indiscriminate disease. It does not matter how intelligent, educated, wealthy or healthy a person is.

The greatest impact, however, is on caregivers. Caregivers deal with significant emotional and financial stress that can be debilitating.

Alzheimer’s has taught me that memories give our lives and relationships meaning. Words cannot express the pain of having someone you love not recognize you or be able to share in a single memory.

The economic impact on our country is significant, and soon will be staggering unless we find some way to slow down or cure this disease.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the source of all figures cited, 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, with an estimated 200,000-500,000 of those being under the age of 62 (contrary to popular belief, it is not an old person’s disease).

Since the year 2000, other diseases have seen a decrease in the number of deaths: heart disease (-13 percent), stroke (-20 percent), HIV (-29 percent). Conversely, deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased by 66 percent.

The total economic costs per year are $183 billion, with an estimated cost of $20 trillion over the next 40 years.

There is legislation before Congress that will help. The Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education for Alzheimer’s Act would improve care and outcomes for people with Alzheimer’s disease by improving diagnosis, care planning, and medical record documentation.

The Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act will mandate that the National Institutes of Health make Alzheimer’s research a priority and communicate to Congress the amount of funding needed to achieve a breakthrough in slowing, preventing and possibly curing the disease.

As our political leaders discuss spending cuts, I would hope they would consider the causes that drive our spending, and make the investments necessary to reduce it.

If you do not know someone who has Alzheimer’s yet … you will.

Help us find a cure so that no one has to spend Father’s Day without his or her father because of this dreadful disease.

Julie L. Brown, CPA

Partner/EVP/CFO, Labarre Associates Inc.

Alzheimer’s Association Ambassador for La.