Thirty-one states have published a plan to respond to what advocates describe as the “escalating crisis” of Alzheimer’s Disease. Connecticut may be next, and is one of 13 states currently in the midst of developing plans.
The Connecticut Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association was among the leaders in crafting and shepherding legislation in the 2013 General Assembly session to create a task force to study the care provided to persons diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and dementia in the state. That Task Force has been up and running throughout the fall, and is poised to announce its recommendations next month, just ahead of the start of the 2014 legislative session in February.
The 23-member task force of key agencies and community stakeholders convened in September, under the auspices of the Legislative Commission on Aging, to prepare findings and recommendations on ways to improve early detection, better coordinate health care services, set training requirements for health care providers and other professionals, services for early-stage and younger onset, and support to family caregivers.
The Task Force was co-chaired by State Commissioner on Aging Edith Prague and Rep. Joseph Serra of Middletown. Members included Laurie Julian of the Alzheimer’s Association in Connecticut and other diverse community stakeholders appointed by legislative leadership and representatives from state agencies including the Department of Public Health, Department of Emergency Services, Department of Banking, Department of Labor and Department of Social Services, as well as six current legislators.
Over 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and as many as 16 million will have the disease in 2050. Nearly one in every three seniors who dies each year has Alzheimer’s or another dementia. The cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is estimated to total $203 billion in 2013, increasing to $1.2 trillion (in today’s dollars) by mid-century. Between 2000 and 2010, nationally, the number of people who died as a result of breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, stroke and HIV all declined, while the number of people who died with Alzheimer’s increased by 68 percent.
In Connecticut, there were 820 deaths due to Alzheimer’s Disease in 2010, there are more than 63,000 individuals with Alzheimer’s in nursing homes in the state and it is estimated that 68% of nursing home residents have a cognitive impairment. As of 2010, there were an estimated 2,800 people between age 65-74 with Alzheimer’s in Connecticut, 30,000 between 75 and 84, and 37,000 age 85 or older.
The task force, in accordance with the legislation, will make recommendations in areas including:
- services provided to persons diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and dementia; including persons with early-state and early-onset of Alzheimer's disease, and such persons' family members and caregivers
- legislative policy changes to better serve such persons, family members and caregivers;
- coordination between state agencies and private community-based health care providers to serve such persons, family members and caregivers;
- case management services for such persons, family members and caregivers;
- the transition of such persons from one health care facility to another; and
- the placement of such persons in community-based settings or health care facilities other than nursing home facilities, when feasible.
The state legislature acknowledged the growing numbers of residents impacted by the disease, passing the bill unanimously earlier this year, with 67 co-sponsors. It was signed into law in June by Gov. Malloy. The Alzheimer’s Association has been actively involved in the effort. The organization’s Connecticut chapter is based in Rocky Hill, with regional offices in Hamden, Norwalk, Norwich and New Milford.
In accordance with the legislation, the task force report is due to be published early next month, according to officials at the State Legislative Commission on Aging.