State seeks to improve response to Alzheimer’s

September 17, 2013

Editorial as it appeared in the Valley Gazette

At the State Capitol, I have made it a priority to focus on issues which impact the quality of life of Connecticut’s seniors.

One of the legislative proposals I co-sponsored this year which I was proud to see become state law was a bill creating a task force on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The new law takes effect on Oct. 1.

More than 5.5 million people in America suffer from Alzheimer’s today. Age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, and the number of elderly people in the U.S. is projected to rise drastically as the baby boomer generation moves into retirement. As our population ages, Alzheimer’s will continue to consume our resources both public and private.

This is a disease that is very debilitating and painful, not only to those who are suffering with it, but also to the patient’s loved ones as well. When Alzheimer’s hits a family member, it can cause many heart-wrenching conflicts and questions within the family.

How do you treat the family member?

What services are provided for the member?

Should the treatment take place at home?

Where do the assets come from to pay for treatment?

Is there a respite for the caregiver?

Too often, families don’t know where to turn or what to do next when they get a diagnosis. Families often face this terrible disease in isolation, but they need to know that they are not alone, and that there is a clear path for help. There are lots of agencies — government, nonprofit, for-profit — doing great work in this field, but too often, people and opportunities fall through the cracks.

The work performed by this new panel will go a long way in helping us to better identify the needs of this special population. The working group will provide information that can be helpful to the family members and to the patients and discover new ways to pay for the cost of treatment and care. The task force will review and report on issues such as caregiver needs, better quality of care, broadening public awareness of dementia and available resources, matching health care system capacity to consumer need and increasing research effectiveness.

The overarching goal is to alleviate the pain of everyone who is dealing with this disease and for those who may deal with it in the future. This new law puts our state on a path to do just that. Feel free to contact me at any time by calling 800-842-1421 or at [email protected].