Advocates Push For Alzheimer's Group On Beacon Hill

By Sarah Birnbaum

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Feb, 7, 2011

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Association is pushing for new legislation that would create a specialized group within the executive office of elder affairs to coordinate the state’s approach to the disease.  

Last month, President Obama signed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act into law.  The measure would create an office and advisory group to coordinate national efforts to deal with the disease.

Genevia Samuel and Mabel Weisenberger eat breakfast at a weekend camp for people with Alzheimer's, sponsored by a program in San Franciso. (Cindy Carpien/NPR)

James Wessler, the president of the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Association, would like to see a similar law on the state level. 
 
Wessler says that while the National Alzheimer’s Project would specialize in research and treatment, a state Alzheimer’s project would focus on improving the quality of life for Bay State residents caring for relatives with Alzheimer’s.

He says the state needs a plan, and a point-person to execute it, for dealing with the many challenges Alzheimer's poses to patients, families and doctors.
 
“How can we support families?  How can we help employers that have workers that are in the middle of taking care of someone are leaving valuable work time?  How can we improve the quality of care provided by aides that work in nursing homes, and social workers and physicians?” Wessler asked.
 
The National Alzheimer’s Association estimates that there are more than 100,000 people with Alzheimer’s living in Massachusetts -- a number that's expected to soar in the coming years as the baby boomers age.  Wessler says the state needs to start strategizing now.
 
“There’s a lot of work that the state has responsibility for to step up to the plate to make sure we’re prepared as the onslaught of the numbers of families with Alzheimer’s disease will be descending on us in oncoming decades,” Wessler said.
 
A bill to create a Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Project was filed last month, but has not been filed to a committee.


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