From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
Even though Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, scientists still have not determined what causes it, or how we can prevent it.
That was one reason the legislature created a task force in 2009, to develop a strategy using the expertise of doctors, senior citizens’ groups, public health experts and civic leaders.
The task force has several goals. One is to increase public awareness of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, so that family members can seek early diagnosis and treatment.
Another goal is to eliminate the stigma that all too often is associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia. For example, if your spouse suffers from dementia and wanders away from home, don’t hesitate to call the police.
There is no shame in telling them that you think your spouse has dementia, and it will help authorities locate your spouse.
The State Police now use drones to find senior citizens who are lost. If your spouse gets angry or upset because of dementia, tell the police. They’re trained to recognize and respond appropriately.
Last year there were 77 silver alerts issued in Arkansas because a senior citizen had wandered away from home. Three of them died before they were found, but 74 were located in time to return them to safety.
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in Arkansas. An estimated 58,000 Arkansas suffer from the disease, and that number is expected to grow to 67,000 people by the year 2025.
The suffering caused by Alzheimer’s is not strictly limited to the people who have it.
About 178,000 Arkansas residents provide some level of care to a family member or loved one who has Alzheimer’s.
If the government or health insurance companies had to pay for that much care, it would cost more than 2.6 billion every year.
The cost of caring for someone with dementia is higher than average, because they tend to require more hospitalization.
Medicare patients with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia go to the hospital at twice the rate of other Medicare patients.
Sometimes a person gets Alzheimer’s because it runs in the family. However, there are risk factors you can avoid to increase your chances of preventing the onset of dementia.
Eat healthy, get regular exercise, stay mentally active and maintain social contacts. Talking with other people helps keep your mind sharp.
The Alzheimer’s task force will submit a report to the legislature by October, with recommendations for improving our care and treatment of people with dementia.
This is a tough fight, but it’s one we face together.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.