State Policymakers Explore Ways to Address Effects of Alzheimer’s Disease

Manny Najera had seen the effects of Alzheimer’s firsthand when he was caring for his aging mother, who suffered from the disease.

When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last year at age 75, Najera wasn’t surprised.

 “I was at a different plateau than your usual person who was told you have Alzheimer’s,” he said.

As a former Texas state legislator, he knew from whence he spoke to those attending an all-day Health Policy Academy on Alzheimer’s disease Wednesday. He believes it’s important for policymakers to not only have the statistics, but also to try to address the needs of those with Alzheimer’s.

The statistics are alarming, policymakers learned Wednesday.

The Pew Research Center released numbers recently showing starting Jan. 1, 2011, 10,000 people turn 65 daily. Age is the most significant risk factor in an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Dr. Linda Teri, of the Department of Psychosocial and Community Health at the University of Washington, said 5 percent of people over age 65 and between 20 and 50 percent of people over age 80 will develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Some 73 percent of Americans report they know or have known someone with Alzheimer’s disease, said Lynda A. Anderson, director of the Healthy Aging Program for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State leaders need to be involved in solutions, speakers at Wednesday session said, because Alzheimer’s has such a big impact on both patients and caregivers.

The Alzheimer’s Association began its push for state Alzheimer’s plans in 2006, and 19 states now have such plans, said Randi Chapman, director of State Affairs with the association.

The needs of Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers are great, speakers said. The AARP has developed a state scorecard on long-term services and supports for older adults, people with physical disabilities and family caregivers to give state leaders and others a better idea of what is offered in their state.

“We wanted to have a performance tool to be able to prompt dialogue,” said Enid Kassner, director of Independent Living/Long-term Care with the AARP Public Policy Institute. “You’re the people we really want to reach about what can be done at the state policy level.”

The scorecard addresses such things as affordability and access, quality of care and quality of life, choice of setting and provider, and support for caregivers. Learn more about how your state is doing at www.longtermscorecard.org.