Rhode Is­land’s ef­forts to re­vise Alzheimer’s plan in full swing

Pawtucket Times - - SENIORS - HERB WEISS

Lt. Gover­nor Dan McKee is gear­ing up Rhode Is­land’s fight against the sky­rock­et­ing in­ci­dence of Alzheimer’s dis­ease, called by some as one of the ‘big­gest epi­demics in med­i­cal his­tory.’

Last Wed­nes­day, he an­nounced $30,000 in grants se­cured by his of­fice and the Rhode Is­land chap­ter of the Alzheimer’s As­so­ci­a­tion to hire a con­sul­tant to up­date the state’s fiveyear plan on Alzheimer’s Dis­ease and Re­lated Disor­ders. Tufts Health Plan Foun­da­tion and the Rhode Is­land Foun­da­tion each pledged $15,000 to sup­port the rewrit­ing of the ini­tial State Plan.

Up­dat­ing the state’s Alzheimer’s Plan

The up­dated State Plan, to be cre­ated by a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort of the Rhode Is­land chap­ter of the Alzheimer’s As­so­ci­a­tion, the Di­vi­sion of El­derly Af­fairs and the Of­fice of the Lt. Gover­nor, will pro­vide state law­mak­ers with a road map for the state, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and the health care sys­tem, to con­front the con­tin­u­ing Alzheimer’s cri­sis. It will take a look at the cur­rent im­pact of Alzheimer’s dis­ease on a grow­ing num­ber of Rhode Is­lan­ders and out­lines what steps the state must take (leg­isla­tively and reg­u­la­tory) to im­prove de­men­tia-ca­pa­ble pro­grams and ser­vices for peo­ple with Alzheimer’s and their fam­ily care­givers.

Lt. Gover­nor McKee and the Ex­ec­u­tive Board of the Alzheimer’s Dis­ease and Re­lated Disor­ders, a work­ing group of com­prised of distin­guished re­searchers, ad­vo­cates, clin­i­cians and care­givers, are now be­gin­ning their ef­forts to meet their dead­line by the end of 2018 of hav­ing a com­pleted state plan to sub­mit to the Rhode Is­land Gen­eral Assem­bly.

With fi­nan­cial sup­port pro­vided by the Rhode Is­land Foun­da­tion and Tufts Health Plan Foun­da­tion, the Alzheimer’s As­so­ci­a­tion, Rhode Is­land Chap­ter, as fis­cal agent, can now hire a con­sul­tant to as­sist in up­dat­ing the ini­tial state-five-year plan ap­proved by the Rhode Is­land Gen­eral Assem­bly in 2013. Once the up­dated re­port is com­pleted and ap­proved by the Rhode Is­land Gen­eral Assem­bly, the Ex­ec­u­tive Board can will seek leg­isla­tive and reg­u­la­tory changes to carry out its rec­om­men­da­tions to en­sure that it is more than just a doc­u­ment—that it comes to shape the state’s pub­lic poli­cies on Alzheimer’s.

“Rhode Is­land has been a na­tional leader in Alzheimer’s re­search. Each day, we make great strides in ex­pand­ing clin­i­cal tri­als and in­no­vat­ing treat­ments. Over the last few years alone, the lo­cal land­scape of pre­ven­tion and treat­ment has changed dra­mat­i­cally and pos­i­tively. The up­dated State Plan will be an in­valu­able tool for lo­cal lead­ers, re­searchers, physi­cians, ad­vo­cates and fam­i­lies as we work to­gether to build mo­men­tum in the fight against Alzheimer’s,” said Lt. Gover­nor McKee.

“A Liv­ing Doc­u­ment”

“We face an emerg­ing cri­sis with the preva­lence of Alzheimer’s dis­ease pro­jected to in­crease to as many as 27,000 Rhode Is­lan­ders by 2025. Alzheimer’s dis­ease is a piv­otal pub­lic health is­sue that Rhode Is­land’s pol­i­cy­mak­ers can­not ig­nore. With the rapidly grow­ing and chang­ing ex­tent of the Alzheimer’s cri­sis, it is es­sen­tial that Rhode Is­land’s State Plan be­comes a liv­ing doc­u­ment that stake­hold­ers reg­u­larly con­sult and re-eval­u­ate,” says Donna McGowan, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the Alzheimer’s As­so­ci­a­tion, Rhode Is­land Chap­ter.

“Com­mu­ni­ties have greater in­ter­est in age-friendly ini­tia­tives. There’s a grow­ing un­der­stand­ing of the crit­i­cal role older peo­ple play. They are an as­set to com­mu­nity, and their voices and in­sights are in­valu­able to the pub­lic dis­course on what com­mu­ni­ties need,” said Nora Moreno Cargie, vice pres­i­dent, cor­po­rate cit­i­zen­ship for Tufts Health Plan and pres­i­dent of its Foun­da­tion.

“A co­or­di­nated, strate­gic ap­proach to Alzheimer’s will lead to bet­ter out­comes and health­ier lives. Work­ing with gen­er­ous donors, we’re proud to part­ner with Tufts to fund this cru­cial work,” said Jenny Pereira, the Rhode Is­land Foun­da­tion’s vice pres­i­dent of grant pro­grams.

Put Older Women, Older Veter­ans on Radar Screen

The up­dated state plan must ad­dress the grow­ing needs of older wo­man and the state’s ag­ing veter­ans pop­u­la­tion.

Mau­reen Mai­gret, Vice Chair of the Long Term Care Co­or­di­nat­ing Coun­cil and Chair of its Ag­ing in Com­mu­nity Sub­com­mit­tee, sug­gests zero in on the spe­cial needs of older women. “Alzheimer’s dis­ease and re­lated de­men­tias is of spe­cial con­cern for older women as the they are more likely to suf­fer from the de­bil­i­tat­ing dis­ease due to greater longevity, more likely to need long term care ser­vices and sup­ports and are more of­ten than men to be care­givers ei­ther un­paid or paid of per­sons with Alzheimer’s dis­ease. The Ag­ing in Com­mu­nity Sub­com­mit­tee of the LTCCC has sev­eral pieces of leg­is­la­tion to strengthen sup­port for care­givers and to en­hance home and com­mu­nity based ser­vices,” says Mai­gret.

Last year, the USA­gain­stAlzheimer’s, (UsA2), re­leased the is­sue brief, “Veter­ans and Alzheimer’s Meet­ing the Cri­sis Head on,” with data in­di­cat­ing that many older veter­ans will face a unique risk fac­tor for Alzheimer’s as a di­rect re­sult of their mil­i­tary ca­reer.

“Forty nine per­cent of those ag­ing veter­ans age 65 (WW2, Korea, Viet­nam and even younger veter­ans, from the Iraq and Afghanistan con­flicts in the com­ing decades), are at greater risk for Alzheimer’s com­pared to 15 per­cent of non­vet­er­ans over age 65,” say the au­thors of the is­sue brief.

UsA2’s is­sue brief pulled to­gether re­search find­ings re­leased by the U.S. Depart­ment of Vet­eran’s Af­fairs (VA). On study es­ti­mates that more than 750,000 older veter­ans have Alzheimer’s dis­ease and other de­men­tias, another not­ing that the num­ber of en­rollee with Alzheimer’s grew 166 per­cent from roughly 145,000 in 2004 to 385,000 in 2014.

The mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties are at even greater risk for Alzheimer’s and mi­nor­ity veter­ans are pre­dicted to in­crease from 23.2 per­cent of the to­tal vet­eran pop­u­la­tion in 2017 to 32.8 per­cent in 2037, says a cited VA study.

The is­sue brief also cited one study find­ings that in­di­cated that older veter­ans who have suf­fered a trau­matic brain in­jury (TBI) are 60 per­cent are more likely to de­velop de­men­tia, Twenty-two per­cent of all com­bat wounds in Afghanistan and Iraq were brain in­juries, nearly dou­ble the rate seen dur­ing Viet­nam – in­creas­ing these younger veter­ans’ life­time Alzheimer’s risk.

The Rhode Is­land Foun­da­tion and the Tufts Health Plan Foun­da­tion grant fund­ing was key to the Lt. Gover­nor McKee be­ing able to up­date its state’s plan to bat­tle Alzheimer’s dis­ease. It pro­vides state pol­icy mak­ers with a roadmap o ef­fec­tively uti­lize state re­sources and dol­lars to pro­vide care for those af­flicted with de­bil­i­tat­ing cog­ni­tive dis­or­der.

It is money well spent. The Alzheimer’s As­so­ci­a­tion will shortly is­sue a Re­quest for Pro­posal (RFP) seek­ing a re­search con­sul­tant to as­sist in re­vis­ing and up­dat­ing e the State Plan. For de­tails about the RFP of the State’s Alzheimer’s Plan, email Michelle La France at mlafrance@alz.org. MichelleLaFrance@aol.com.

Herb Weiss, LRI’12, is a Paw­tucket writer cov­er­ing ag­ing, health­care and med­i­cal is­sues. To pur­chase Tak­ing Charge: Col­lected Sto­ries on Ag­ing Boldly, a col­lec­tion of 79 of his weekly com­men­taries, go to herb­weiss.com.

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