Sunday, July 11, 2010

States Plan for Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s Advocates throughout the United States have worked with their home states to develop a plan to prepare for the silver tsunami made up of aging baby boomers. So far twelve states have completed their plans. Another eighteen states, including Missouri, are developing plans.

In addition to the expected elected officials and aging professionals, the nineteen member Missouri Task Force includes a person with memory loss and a caregiver. Community Forums were held throughout the state to address the challenges of families facing Alzheimer’s disease.

The 110,000 Missourians who have Alzheimer’s disease are cared for by 180,000 unpaid caregivers who provide 156 million hours of unpaid care. Most caregivers want to care for their loved one at home as long as possible. With the necessary support and services in place, this army of dedicated unpaid caregivers can save the state $1.7 billion.

The Missouri Community Forums helped the Task Force pinpoint the areas that needed attention. The concerns family members voiced at the Alzheimer’s Association Mid-Missouri Chapter’s forum were:

1. Access to early and accurate diagnosis by doctors and health care professionals.
2. Availability of affordable home health and respite care to keep loved ones at home longer.
3. Investment from the state of Missouri for Alzheimer’s research.

This short list of goals is reasonable, and any caregiver can attest to their validity. Early diagnosis is important. If dementia-like symptoms are caused by a treatable condition, it is important to take proper measures to address the underlying problem. If the diagnosis is Alzheimer’s, a proper treatment regimen can be started when it does the most good. Early diagnosis helps the family plan for the future.

Affordable home health and respite are basic needs when a loved one is cared for in the home. One person cannot be awake and alert twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Providing care for a person with Alzheimer’s is a huge undertaking! Not only do states need a plan, individuals need one to prevent burnout and illness. A care plan designed to provide relief for the primary caregiver with home health support and occasional respite care will keep people in the comfort of their own homes longer.

The state of Missouri annually spends $100 million in Medicaid for dementia long term care. By investing in Alzheimer’s Service Grants to support families caring for their loved ones at home, the state could save millions in Medicaid dollars.

The Missouri Alzheimer’s State Plan will be delivered to the governor in November as part of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. It is a fiscal responsibility of our elected officials to tap into this valuable resource of dedicated caregivers.

Copyright © July 2010, L. S. Fisher

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