From left to right: Elizabeth Bolling, Janece Richard, Debra Adams, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Nadra Angerman, Sara Hondel, Rhonda Scott. Photo courtesy of Debra Adams

On Tuesday, April 9, Debra Buchanan-Adams visited Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. to advocate on behalf of physicians, caregivers, families, and patients whose lives are affected by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. 

Adams, along with other Alaskans from Ketchikan, Wrangell, Kenai, and Anchorage, spoke to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska), and Sen. Dan Sullivan’s (R-Alaska) aides to thank them for their sponsorship of previous Alzheimer’s legislation and to ask for their continued support for other acts related to dementia and Alzheimer’s.   

The Alaska contingent joined 1,000 other advocates from all 50 states in support of the legislation.  

While on Capitol Hill, Adams wore a purple sash. “It’s purple because this is a bipartisan issue,” she said.   

She said it’s also a human issue, which is why Adams brought along photographs of local Cordovans who are currently dealing with the disease. By showing our elected officials the faces of real people, she hopes the issue might become more tangible. 

For Adams, this has been tangible since 2012 when her husband, Ken, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  


At one point during her husband’s time with the disease, Adams traveled to D.C. with a group of Cordova High School students for the Close Up program. It was then that she first noticed a group doing what she would come to do this year: advocate on behalf of Alzheimer’s research and care. She remembers walking up to one of the advocates and saying, “Thank you for what you’re doing.” This trip, Adams returned the favor and it was her who was thanked. 

A major focus of Adams’ trip was to advocate for two prominent acts, one of which has already been cosponsored by Murkowski and Sullivan. The Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure Reauthorization Act would provide continued funding for prevention, diagnosis, data collection, and access to care and services through 2029. The Accelerating Access to Dementia and Alzheimer’s Provider Training (AADAPT) Act would offer greater physician and caregiver education through the use of a virtual education program known as Project ECHO (Extension for Community Outcomes).   

Adams makes it clear that obtaining care in rural Alaska is no easy task. Though the Adams family was fortunate enough to find a local caregiver, many rural Alaskans are not. One of the major challenges with treating dementia patients in Alaska is lack of access. According to the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, a nationwide lobbying association, “even when a diagnosis is made, appropriate care may not be available.”   

That is why it is so important to push for access to quality care for Alzheimer’s patients, Adams said. Adams said that having a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s is not uncommon. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in Alaska today 8.8% of adults over 65 have the disease. 

Adams encourages other Cordovans to voice their support for dementia research funding and for all dementia-specific legislation that helps caregivers and patients.

Correction: The featured image caption was corrected on April 28 with Janece Richard’s name.