BOSTON – The Massachusetts House and Senate Senate took historic steps to address the Alzheimer’s and dementia healthcare crisis in the Commonwealth voting to pass an Act relative to Alzheimer’s and related dementias in the Commonwealth. The legislation, championed in the Senate by Senator Jason Lewis, marks major progress in supporting individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia, their families, and their caretakers.
“The Massachusetts Alzheimer’s and Dementia Act is critical for the hundreds of thousands of people in our state affected by these diseases,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Committee on Public Health. “We all know a friend, neighbor or loved one who has been touched by Alzheimer’s or dementia, and it is clearer than ever that the growing healthcare crisis requires bold and compassionate response and mitigation.”
More than 130,000 people are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease in Massachusetts—those individuals are being cared for by more than 337,000 family and friends. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2018 Massachusetts will spend more than $1.6 billion in Medicaid costs caring for people with Alzheimer’s.
In 2017, Senator Lewis convened a special legislative hearing on the Alzheimer’s and dementia healthcare crisis. Advocates from around Massachusetts testified about the real challenges produced by dementia. This hearing was a catalyst for legislative action in the House and the Senate, as elected officials learned more about devastating toll of Alzheimer’s: not just on those with the disease, but also on their families and caregivers. Nearly 60 percent of caregivers rate the emotional stress as high or very high, and about 40 percent suffer from depression.
“Alzheimer’s is the single largest unaddressed public health threat in the 21st century and we remain on the front lines of this crisis every day here in the Commonwealth,” shared Daniel Zotos, Director of Public Policy & Advocacy of the Alzheimer’s Association, Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter. “This legislation follows in the tradition of Massachusetts being a national leader in health care and we commend the Legislature for ensuring everyone impacted by Alzheimer’s gets the quality care and support they deserve.”
The legislation helps patients and their families receive better, more comprehensive care. Caregiving for people with Alzheimer’s is an energy- and time-intensive endeavor and when medical emergencies occur for unrelated conditions, people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias often fare poorly in the acute care setting. This bill helps ensure that caseworkers, medical providers and hospital administrators and staff better understand Alzheimer’s disease so that they can provide the best treatment possible for patients and clients who are brought to them.
An Act relative to Alzheimer’s and related dementias in the Commonwealth supports individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia and their families by:
- Tasking the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to develop and assess all state programs that address Alzheimer’s and create recommendations and implementation steps to address issues related to Alzheimer’s
- Creating an advisory council for Alzheimer’s disease research & treatment
- Requiring that all protective service caseworkers receive training on recognizing signs & symptoms of Alzheimer’s
- Requiring that all doctors, physician’s assistants, and nurses who serve adult populations complete a one-time course of training on diagnosis, treatment and care of people with Alzheimer’s
- Requiring physicians to report an initial diagnosis of Alzheimer’s to a member of a patient’s family (or a personal representative) and provide the family with information about understanding the diagnosis, creating care plans, and accessing medical and non-medical treatment options
- Requiring hospitals to create and implement an operational plan for the recognition of patients with Alzheimer’s and Dementia and treatment for those patients.
The bill now sits on Governor Charlie Baker’s desk awaiting his signature.