Connecticut’s Responsibility To Alzheimer’s Victims & Their Families

July 6, 2010

Anyone who has ever witnessed a loved one’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease knows firsthand the toll this devastating illness takes, not just on its victims but also on family, friends and caretakers. Approximately 5.3 million people in our country have this type of dementia – and someone is newly diagnosed every 70 seconds. Here in Connecticut, 70,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s and experts believe that this number will grow to 76,000 by 2025.

While the symptoms can sometimes be treated, so far there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. It is progressive over time, causing memory loss, problems with thinking, and deteriorating behavior. Ultimately, it is fatal. While most victims are 65 and older, this disease has been known to strike much younger people including those in their 30s. Understandably, most people suffering from this disease prefer to live at home for as long as possible – and, whenever possible, many families prefer to care for their relatives with Alzheimer’s at home.

According to the Connecticut chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, 125,758 people in our state are voluntarily caring for their friends and relatives who have this disease. Their unpaid labor is valued at $1,646,952,695, and the generosity of these caregivers saves taxpayers a great deal of money due to the tremendous expense of providing nursing home care. Clearly, the friends and families of Alzheimer’s patients who choose not to place their loved ones in nursing homes have earned our admiration and gratitude. However, what they really need and deserve is help in the form of state services. Fortunately, that help is available.

As of May 1st, the Connecticut Statewide Respite Care Program has been re-opened for new intake – roughly a year after it was closed to new applications because of the state’s ongoing fiscal problems. Just before the program was closed to new applicants, the demand for respite services had increased by 24 percent. I am proud to be among the legislators and advocates who worked very hard this year to restore much needed respite services – including for new applicants – who meet program requirements, including a physician’s diagnosis and income eligibility.

The Connecticut Statewide Respite Care Program, a joint partnership between the Alzheimer’s Association Connecticut Chapter, the Area Agencies on Aging, and the State of Connecticut Department of Social Services, Aging Services Division, provides information, support, the development of an appropriate plan of care, and services for those with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias. Services provided to eligible applicants include a maximum of 30 days of out-of-home respite care services, excluding adult day care, each year. Applicants may be placed on a waiting list, and may be screened for eligibility for other programs.

Further information about the Connecticut Statewide Respite Program is available by calling 1-800-994-9422; callers will be directed to the appropriate Area Agency on Aging. Interested persons may also visit the website operated by the state Department of Social Services at www.ct.gov/dss, and click on the “Elders” tab under ‘Programs and Services For:”, and follow the link to “Alzheimer’s Respite Care Program”. In addition to information about the Connecticut Statewide Respite Program, visitors will find links to other helpful sites.

As always, I urge constituents to contact me with their questions and concerns, or to discuss issues that are important to Connecticut. I can be reached at my legislative office in Hartford at 1-800-842-1421 or via e-mail to [email protected]