Dueling Testimony – Seth Rogen vs. Ben Affleck – A Commentary on Long-Term Care in America?

By: Jerold E. Rothkoff & Alicia Kagan

It was an interesting day in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Two Hollywood celebrities testified at separate U.S. Senate subcommittee hearings at the same time regarding two different topics.

Actor Seth Rogen offered touching and sometimes funny remarks that detailed his mother-in-law’s struggles with Alzheimer’s disease. Rogen testified on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association to advocate additional federal funding and research for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. While Rogen’s testimony was powerful and put a light on a topic that should be discussed more often, there was one major problem: Only two senators among eighteen stuck around for the 6-minute testimony. That’s right, 16 senators either didn’t attend the session or left before Rogen spoke.

The actor called them out on Twitter, writing, “Not sure why only two senators were at the hearing. Very symbolic of how the Government views Alzheimer’s. Seems to be a low priority.”

In fact, one of those that left, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, even took a photo with Rogen before doing so, later thanking him for speaking out via Twitter. Naturally, Rogen asked him why he didn’t stick around to hear what he had to say. Kirk said he had another meeting to attend, but watched the testimony later. Rogen and his wife have launched an organization, Hilarity for Charity, to help educate young Americans about the disease.

In another Senate hearing room in the same building, Ben Affleck testified on the dire situation in the Congo before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Affleck testified in front of a packed house, with most Senate committee members present.

Affleck has visited the central African country nine times since 2007. Four years ago, the actor started his advocacy organization, Eastern Congo Initiative, dedicated to helping bring peace and prosperity to the region. He told the senators that while Congo is more peaceful than when he first visited the region 11 years ago, it remains at a crossroads.

It is my understanding that the situation in the Congo has been unbearable, involving mass rapes and killings. However, I am admittedly not very knowledgeable about the current state of affairs in Congo. Perhaps I should be. However, I can tell you what affect Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia has on our country. These affects include:

  • Total payments for health care, long-term care and hospice for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are projected to increase from $203 billion in 2013 to $1.2 trillion in 2050.
  •  Dementia care accounts for a larger portion of health care costs in the US than cancer care.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 68% between 2000 and 2010, while deaths from other major diseases, including the number one cause of death (heart disease), decreased.
  • Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death among the top 10 in America without a way to prevent it, cure it or even slow its progression. Source: www.alz.org

There has to be room in this world to bring attention to both of these causes along with so many other issues that plague our world. However, we have enough problems right here at home, and the care we give our elderly should be right at the top of that list.

Each person can focus on what becomes important to them – then hopefully we can collectively make this world a better place. To quote the late great Pete Seeger–“Participation– that’s what’s gonna save the human race.” As long as we participate in something – disease prevention, genocide awareness, human rights, let us all just continue to stand up for what we believe in.

About Jerry

Jerold E. Rothkoff, a practicing New Jersey and Pennsylvania attorney, is the Principal of the Rothkoff Law Group, an elder care law firm. Jerry dedicates his practice to serving clients in the areas of life care planning, long-term care planning, Medicaid & VA benefits, and advocacy for the elderly and disabled. He is past President of the NJ Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, former chair of the elder law section of the NJ State Bar Association, and past President of the Life Care Planning Law Firm Association. Jerry continues to be an outspoken advocate for the rights of the elderly and disabled. He writes for and gives presentations regularly to attorneys and other professionals about legal issues related to seniors and those with disabilities. Jerry’s community activities include the Twilight Wish Foundation, the Delaware Valley Stroke Council, the Alzheimer’s Association, as well as numerous other advocacy groups. When not in the office, Jerry spends time with his wife, Erica, and their five children, eighteen-year old identical twin girls, Liza and Julia, fifteen-year old fraternal twin boys, Evan and Gregory, and six-year old Aitan.

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