State Should Fund Alzheimer’s Care

March 21, 2012

Throughout our state and nation, Alzheimer’s disease is an increasingly serious challenge for our seniors and the many families that care for them. As baby boomers continue to age, organizations have reported remarkable growth in the number of Alzheimer’s cases that are projected to develop over the next decade. This will certainly add extra strain to our state’s public health services that are currently at risk of being cut. Luckily, members of the legislature are dedicated to increasing future support to those who provide essential care for loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s.

As Ranking Senator of the General Assembly’s Aging Committee, I am uniquely aware of the challenges posed by Alzheimer’s for our seniors and families in our community. In order to be prepared, we must fully grasp the situation at hand. Recently, the Alzheimer’s Association released its “2012 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures” report citing that there are now 5.4 million Americans living with the disease today, including about 70,000 in our state alone. By the year 2025, this number is expected to grow to 76,000. It is undeniable that we must focus on tackling this issue now.

Despite this projected increase, Governor Malloy proposed cutting $290,000 from the Alzheimer’s Statewide Respite Program. It is a troubling and disappointing development that families and caregivers should be concerned about.

When considering the financial aspects of Alzheimer’s disease, we find that in-home care provides a more comfortable and less expensive option than institutional care. According to the AARP, about 80% of seniors prefer to remain in their homes as long as possible rather than receiving care at a facility. The Alzheimer’s Statewide Respite Program provides families with assistance as they care for loved ones in the home.

The cost of providing care for Alzheimer’s patients is much higher at institutional facilities versus in-home care. According to the 2010 MetLife Market Survey of Long-Term Care Costs, the average daily cost of a semi-private room at a nursing home in the Fairfield County area was $375 while the average hourly rate of a home health aide providing home care was $26.

The short-term financial benefit of cutting $290,000 from the state budget undercuts the much greater benefit the state would receive by supporting this program over institutional care, a much more expensive option for Alzheimer’s care. These community-based programs allow seniors to remain in their homes and ultimately save taxpayer dollars by providing more cost-effective and improved care to those who need it most.

While these decisions are based on solving current budget deficits, we should rather focus on the many hardworking and caring individuals who silently dedicate their lives to providing essential health care support to ailing family members. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the number of unpaid caregivers in our state has skyrocketed. In 2009, that number was 125,758. Two years later, that number grew to 174,032. These loving family members and others worked over 198 million hours of unpaid care for a value of more than $2.4 billion. We must thank them for their dedicated service, and restoring this funding is one small, but necessary way the state can show its appreciation.

However, there is some good news to share. On March 8th, members of the Aging Committee unanimously voted in favor of legislation that would undo the Governor’s proposal and actually increase funding for the Alzheimer’s Respite Care Program to a total of $2,494,388. It now moves to the Appropriations Committee where further discussion will take place. If you would like to follow this legislation as it progresses through the General Assembly, please visit and search for S.B. 143, An Act Increasing Eligibility And Funding For The Alzheimer Respite Care Program.

In the remaining six weeks of this year’s legislative session, I am hopeful that we can reach bipartisan consensus on saving this program for those who provide such important care to their loved ones. You can be sure that I will continue to work in support of this program and other aging-in-place initiatives that ultimately benefit everyone in our state. If you are interested in learning more about Alzheimer’s disease, please visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at