Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor continues to demonstrate her leadership in the face of adversity, today bravely announcing her diagnosis of dementia, possibly Alzheimer’s. In all aspects of her life Justice O’Connor has been a transparent leader, and being forthcoming about her diagnosis is another demonstration of this.
Justice O’Connor is not new to Alzheimer’s. Her husband, John O’Connor, lived with Alzheimer’s disease for nearly 20 years. In 2005, as John was in decline from the disease, Justice O’Connor stepped down from the Supreme Court to spend more time with him.
Our hearts go out to Justice O’Connor and her family as they face this devastating disease. Since her husband’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease, Justice O’Connor has been an advocate for caregivers and people living with the disease.
She was a pivotal member of the Alzheimer’s Study Group, a committee convened by Congress and which presented its findings back to Congress in 2009. Justice O’Connor helped to position Alzheimer’s as a national priority that demands action from our nation’s policymakers. She provided invaluable insight and passion to the group ensuring the needs of both caregivers and those living with dementia were represented. Justice O’Connor testified twice to Congress on the group’s recommendations which helped to inform policies enacted today.
More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and another 16 million are providing unpaid care. The most expensive disease in the nation, Congress has recently taken unprecedented steps to improve the trajectory of this devastating disease — including more than quadrupling Alzheimer’s and dementia research funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and improving access to care and support services.
We commend Justice O’Connor for bravely sharing her diagnosis and increasing awareness about this devastating disease.