Alzheimer’s Association Calls on State for Follow Through

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“The fact is that Alzheimer’s disease is an epidemic. Every 67 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s,” according to Ronnie Daniel, Executive Director of the Utah Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Daniel was on Capitol Hill last Wednesday to urge the Health and Human Services Interim Committee to take action in the fight against the disease.

Despite the fact that comprehensive plan aimed at targeting Alzheimer’s was put together by the state in 2012, nothing in the way of progress has happened. No state departments “own” the issue of Alzheimer’s disease prevention and treatment, Daniel contends.

And treatment can cost the citizens dearly – and, by extension, the states economy. 80% of care for Utahns living with the disease come from families and are estimated to cost caregivers $1.8 billion annually while also providing 150 million hours of care at home.  It is estimated that caring for those with such diseases also cost the state $1.4 million annually in productivity.

The legislation Daniel is referring to the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Act, which was the result of research conducted over a one-year period by the Alzheimer State Plan Task Force. The plan was endorsed by the legislature in a joint resolution that was sponsored by former Senator Karen Morgan (Democrat – Cottonwood Heights).

The action plan has five goals: A Dementia-Aware Utah, Health & Dignity for All with Dementia and Those at Risk, Supported and Empowered Family Caregivers, A Dementia-competent Workforce, and Expanded Research in Utah.

As a result of this inaction, Daniel believes that something further needs to be done. He is calling for legislation to designate Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias as a public health issue, designating the Utah State Department of Health as being primarily responsible for the implementation of the state’s plan.

Representative Paul Ray (Republican – Clearfield) agreed and stepped up to sponsor a version of the proposed legislation, vowing a draft of the bill to be completed in the near future.

Alzheimer’s disease is a serious, debilitating disease. It is a progressive disease of the brain that destroys brain cells and those affected experience memory loss, lapse of judgement, and personality changes. There is no known cure for the disease.

Currently, there are more than 5.2 million people in the United States suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and 44 million worldwide. These numbers are expected to vastly increase in the future as the population continues to age. In Utah, cases of Alzheimer’s are expected to increase from 22,000 in 2000 to an estimated 50,000 cases by 2025. If other dementia related cases are considered, Utah is expected to see 100,000 cases of such debilitating diseases by 2025.

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