New Alzheimer’s Act to provide help for patients, caregivers on the South Plains

Treating Alzheimer's as a public health issue

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - With the passage of the Bold Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act, Alzheimer’s will now be treated as a public health issue.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2014, as more than five million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease, data was not kept on how the disease was affecting Americans, but a new law is changing that. On December 31, 2018 the Bold Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act was signed into U.S. law.

The new law means that public health offices across the United States will now have funding to use for public health awareness and intervention to care and train individuals who are helping someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Since it is now classified as a public health crisis, states can gather data from those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, by collecting information from surveys.

Sheryl Ryan is a volunteer ambassador for Alzheimer’s Association.

“Today we know how many people as a rule have cancer, we know how many people, as a rule, have the flu during flu season, but we do not know how many people actually Alzheimer’s and dementia have because it was never designated as a public health crisis,” Ryan said.

According to the Fact Sheet for the Act, it says the 2018 costs of Alzheimer’s was $277 billion, making it the most expensive disease in America. Costs now exceed a quarter of a trillion dollars per year.

Shannon Younger is a program specialist with the West Texas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. She said cost is the biggest burden for caretakers.

“Cost of the disease is going to triple and quadruple so we’re looking at ways of it being better for the caregivers," Younger said, "better for the person diagnosed, to try to not have the burden of that cost and not have that cost for the government as well.”

Ryan said one goal is to, “Try to prevent unnecessary visits to emergency rooms, train caregivers and medical health professionals so they now know when they have someone present with something that looks like it might be Alzheimer’s or dementia, so they can get and earlier diagnosis and earlier intervention in that process.”

But both Ryan and Younger agree, the ultimate goal is to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

Younger recommends their helpline for people looking for more information: “Definitely I would direct them first to our helpline. We have a wonderful helpline 24/7. They can call anytime 1-800-272-3900. And any time day or night, even on holidays, people can reach out and contact us to start that process and get that help in any capacity they need.”

For more information on the Bold Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act, click here.

You can find the West Texas Chapter of Alzheimer’s Association Facebook link here.

To read the bill, click here.

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