State Prepares for Future Toll of Alzheimer’s

November 21, 2013

By the year 2025, nearly 160,000 Georgians will be living with some form of dementia, according to statewide projections. Those numbers have prompted concern among Georgia officials about the state’s readiness to provide appropriate care.

Members of the Alzheimer's and Related Dementias State Task Force, including State Sen. Renee Unterman (second from right)

Currently, 120,000 Georgians live with Alzheimer’s disease and are cared for by an estimated 495,000 caregivers. But experts say half of those living with the disease haven’t yet been diagnosed – a significant public health challenge. State officials are now initiating plans and resource development to meet that challenge.

“Raising awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias is important to early diagnosis and ensuring those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers have the resources they need for future planning and care,” said State Sen. Renee Unterman. “In a few short years, our state has made tremendous progress in developing strategies to deal with the long-term effects of cognitive decline in Georgia.”

The remarks came at a news conference Tuesday where Sen. Unterman and members of the Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias State Task Force announced substantial progress in building Georgia’s statewide response plan, which includes the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH).

“The work we are doing collaboratively is so critical, so timely and so right,” said DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., who leads the task force’s Healthcare, Research and Data workgroup.

Fitzgerald is assisting Sen. Unterman in working on plans for DPH to house and evaluate data related to all forms of dementia as part of an overall set of recommendations to be presented next March to the Georgia General Assembly and Gov. Nathan Deal, who officially proclaimed November as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.

“We appreciate Gov. Deal’s proclaiming November as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and the collaborative effort begun by Sen. Unterman in the development of the Georgia Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias State Plan. It is so important for Georgians to recognize the warning signs of Alzheimer’s or related dementia,” said Leslie Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the Georgia Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are becoming increasingly widespread in Georgia and throughout the nation. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and as many as 16 million will have the disease in 2050. In Georgia, 14.3 percent – one in seven – of those ages 60 and over report that they are experiencing confusion or memory loss that is happening more often or getting worse.

Other task force members at the news conference included representatives from the Emory University Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, the Division of Aging Services, Sen. Nan Orrock and Ga. State Representatives Pedro Marin and David Stover. Dave Ellis, a task force member currently living with dementia, told those gathered he’s proud to be part of the collaboration and the response to Alzheimer’s disease in Georgia.

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