Sen. Unterman Introduces Statewide Alzheimer’s and Dementia Task Force Plan

ATLANTA (December 20, 2012) – Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, held a press conference today at the Georgia State Capitol to pre-file legislation that would create a statewide Alzheimer’s and Dementia Task Force responsible for assessing the current and future impact of Alzheimer’s disease in Georgia.

“As the state’s Alzheimer’s population is expected to double by 2025, Georgia must be prepared with an active plan to share the burden of taking care of its citizens who are likely to require government assistance in the final stages of their lives due to the effects of dementia,” said Sen. Unterman. “I challenge the Departments of Human Services and Aging, the Department of Public Health, the Executive branch and General Assembly to actively participate in developing this plan by approving this legislation.”

During the press conference, Sen. Unterman addressed Georgia’s response to Alzheimer’s disease and discussed upcoming legislative efforts to care for this growing population, including the creation of the Georgia Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias State Plan Task Force.

Georgia is one of only 16 states in the nation that has not developed a statewide Alzheimer’s response plan. The creation of this task force would set the groundwork for the infrastructure necessary to build the programs capable of serving individuals afflicted by this disease. In addition, individuals appointed to serve on the task force will be responsible for examining the state’s existing infrastructure and determining the need for additional legislation.

At the press conference, Sen. Unterman was joined by the following advocates and interest groups:

  • Kathy Simpson, advocacy manager, Alzheimer’s Association
  • Sheila Humberstone, Troutman Sanders Strategies
  • Sarah Ralston and Jason Broce, Georgia Health Care Association
  • Kathy Floyd, AARP
  • Kathryn Fowler, Georgia Council on Aging
  • Dr. Allen Levey, physician and researcher, Emory University
  • Alyssa Easton, advocate, individual with Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is a growing concern for Georgia’s aging population, which is expected to grow by over 140 percent by 2030. Alzheimer’s and related dementia is the 6th leading cause of death in Americans and represents the 5th leading cause of death in people over the age of 65.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.4 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2012 and at least 800,000 Americans live alone with this debilitating disease every day. In Georgia, it was estimated that approximately 125,000 Georgians are currently suffering from this disease.

It is also projected that the number of Georgians with Alzheimer’s will increase by 45 percent from 2000 to 2025. Due to this rapid increase in growth, Alzheimer’s disease places a heavy burden on our state’s health care system.

Approximately 75 percent of individuals with Alzheimer’s end up in a nursing home by age 80 and almost 70,000 nursing home residents in the United States have some form of cognitive impairment.  Among nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, 51 percent rely on Medicaid for payment of care. In 2010 alone, Georgia Medicaid spent over $2 billion just on long-term care for seniors.

In addition, over 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s and related dementia, and 80 percent of such care is provided by family caregivers at home.

As a result of this health care crisis, Sen. Unterman and interested stakeholders have joined together to evaluate the state’s ability to provide Georgians living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and their caregivers, with the appropriate programs and services.

Within the past decade, the Georgia Legislature has passed several pieces of legislation aimed at supporting Georgia’s aging population, including:

HB 457, which changed the definition of “disabled adult” to include individuals who have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.  The bill further provides that anyone who acts with specific intent to abuse, neglect, or exploit any disabled adult (including persons with dementia) who is a resident of a long-term care facility will be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment of one to five years.

HB 728, also known as Mattie’s Call Act.  This legislation establishes a statewide alert system to be activated on behalf of missing disabled adults.  The Georgia Emergency Management Agency will recruit the media, commercial entities, state or local governments, the public, and other appropriate persons to assist in developing and implementing the alert system.

Through the creation of a statewide Alzheimer’s and Dementia Task Force, Georgia will join 13 other states who have already established an Alzheimer’s Taskforce. Currently, 19 states have published a statewide Alzheimer’s response plan aimed at serving individuals with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

For Immediate Release:
December 20, 2012

For Information Contact:
Jennifer Yarber, Deputy Director
Shawna Mercer, Sr. Communications Specialist