Legislation to help the hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia and their families was signed into law yesterday by Governor Charlie Baker.

The bill, which passed the Massachusetts Senate unanimously, supports improving diagnosis, treatment, and care for individuals with Alzheimer’s, and focuses on providing essential information to patients and their families about understanding an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, creating and coordinating a care plan, and accessing both medical and non-medical treatments critically necessary to living with the disease.

“This landmark legislation is an important step toward better care for our friends and family facing Alzheimer’s and dementia. People with Alzheimer’s and dementia are especially vulnerable to neglect, as well as physical, emotional, and financial abuse,” said Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville). “From my experience as co-chair of the Elder Protective Services Commission and as my father’s caregiver, I knew it was important to sponsor the section requiring minimum training for elder protective service workers in recognizing cognitive impairments.”

There are more than 130,000 people in Massachusetts with Alzheimer’s disease, supported by 337,000 family caregivers, and that number is growing. Alzheimer’s has become increasingly common and is the most expensive disease in America, yet Massachusetts struggles to properly diagnose and inform patients that they have this debilitating disease. Further compounding the problem is the projected rise in the incidence of Alzheimer’s; nearly 150,000 people will have the disease by 2025 in Massachusetts alone.

“Almost everyone we meet these days has a personal connection to Alzheimer’s disease. Thousands of seniors, and younger adults, suffer from the disease across our Commonwealth. For me, it was my mom who lived with us at my house for the last several years of her life. My experience navigating her diagnosis and care taught me firsthand just how difficult this disease can be for even the most informed families,” said L’Italien, who spoke on the Senate floor next to a picture of her late mother, Claire Sullivan L’Italien, who died from Alzheimer’s last April. “This bill, the result of many months of collaboration among legislators, hospitals, advocates, and doctors, will make a huge difference in the lives of the increasing number of families struggling to understand life with dementia. Massachusetts can yet again be a proactive health care leader.”

“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,” said 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. No other state in the country has passed such a comprehensive bill to address this epidemic.”

This legislation 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 Alzheimer’s Association would like to recognize Senate President Harriette Chandler and Senator Karen Spilka for their leadership and Senators L’Italien, Lewis, Jehlen, Moore and Rush, whose original pieces of legislation provided the foundation for the comprehensive legislation to help those with Alzheimer’s. Because of this legislation, families impacted by Alzheimer’s and dementia and our health care system will be much better prepared in fighting this epidemic,” continued Zotos.

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