Council seeks to 'link' resources for Alzheimer's

Robert Houk • Aug 7, 2019 at 7:00 PM

A recent report from the U.S. Centers of of Disease Control and Prevention ranks Tennessee as the top state in the nation for the number of its residents age 45 or older — at a rate of 29.8 percent — serving as a caregiver for a family member or a friend with Alzheimer’s or a related illness.

That’s why officials with Tennessee’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia Advisory Council say one of their goals is to bring hope to both state residents who have been diagnosed Alzheimer’s and to the caregivers of those with the disease.

State Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, said Tuesday he and the other 12 members of the council “realize the urgency” in developing a plan to provide key services for the more than 120,000 Tennesseans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Crowe said that plan must include help for their family members, who are also impacted by the disease.

“Alzheimer’s is affecting so many Tennesseans either directly or indirectly,” he said. “Everyone seems to have a relative who is impacted, or knows someone who is.”

Jim Shulman, who is executive director of Tennessee’s Commission on Aging and Disability, said the advisory council will be addressing both education and the resources needed to address Alzheimer’s, which now affects five million Americans and is a number that is expected to double by 2050.

“People are terrified of getting Alzheimer’s,” Shulman said. “We hear from Tennesseans all the time who are in a panic about what to do next.”

Tennessee is ranked fourth in the nation for the number of Alzheimer’s-related deaths annually. Crowe, who sponsored the legislation to create the advisory council, said the state has become a national leader in seeking solutions for treating the disease and helping those who provide daily care.

“There are so many hands doing so many things,” said Crowe, who is the chairman of the state Senate’s Health and General Welfare Committee. “We want to find ways to link them up.”

Shulman said the advisory council will be hearing from those caregivers, along with medical professionals and patients who are dealing with Alzheimer’s. He said the goal is to formulate a state policy to recommend to Gov. Bill Lee and his staff.

The council’s first meeting is scheduled for Aug. 22. Crowe said he and his colleagues on the panel have until January to come up with its recommendations.

“If we identify what help is needed and link those resources, I am confident the governor will get something done,” he said.

Shulman said the state would most likely look to expand resources that are already helping patients and their caregivers. That includes respite services for Alzheimer’s caregivers like those being offered by the First Tennessee’s Area Agency on Aging and Disability.

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