WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Herb Kohl (D-WI) held a hearing to roll out a report from the Alzheimer’s Study Group (ASG), an independent coalition of the country’s leading experts on Alzheimer’s and its related fields. Members of the group, including former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and former Senator Bob Kerrey, released the ASG’s highly anticipated National Alzheimer's Strategic Plan. Maria Shriver, first lady of California and former broadcast journalist, shared her own family’s experience with the disease and offered advice to caregivers. Larry Butcher, chairman of Alzheimer’s Community Care in West Palm Beach, Florida, testified about the patient care model in use at his facility, which provides specialized adult day-care centers, family nurse consultants, education and training, 24-hour crisis hotline, and caregiver support groups.
“The Alzheimer’s Study Group has given us a good understanding of where we are today, and where we need to go,” said Kohl. “The Committee will continue its work to address the Plan’s recommendations to train and support those caregivers on the frontlines, whether they are health professionals, direct care workers, or family members.”
The recommendations of the National Alzheimer's Strategic Plan were broken down into four primary categories: support for research; translating research breakthroughs into treatment; ensuring quality care; and supporting families. Specific proposals included supplying incentives to scientist who perform long-term research, encouraging the use of biomarkers in clinical trials, creating care coordination among facility or in-home caregivers, and redesigning community homes to increase quality of life for patients.
Chairman Kohl was recently joined by Senators Lincoln, Wyden, and Casey in introducing the Retooling the Health Care Workforce for an Aging America Act, which directly addresses the Study Group’s suggestion to implement the recommendations of last year’s Institute of Medicine report on the impending shortage of health care workers who are adequately trained and prepared to care for older Americans. The legislation would expand education and training opportunities in geriatrics and long-term care for licensed health professionals, direct care workers, and family caregivers. Specifically, the bill addresses the training and support of personal and home care aides, to include specialized dementia care training. Finally, the bill would offer training and support to an estimated 44 million family caregivers that must provide increasingly complex support services to frail and elderly loved ones wishing to live at home, including those with dementia.
Another bill, introduced by Chairman Kohl and Ranking Member Mel Martinez (R-FL), would help ensure the safe recovery of missing seniors, particularly those with dementia. Alzheimer’s Foundation of America estimates that more than 60 percent of those living with Alzheimer’s are likely to wander away from their homes. The National Silver Alert Act would create a national program to develop, implement, and coordinate local Silver Alert plans so that missing seniors can be returned safely to their homes and families. Similar to the successful “Amber Alert” for children, the Silver Alert allows families and local, state, and federal law enforcement to quickly cooperate and coordinate when alerted of a missing senior. Timely notification and dissemination of information about missing seniors greatly improves the chances that they will be found before they face serious harm.
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