Opinion: Legislation would provide support for Alzheimer’s care providers

Nearly 8,400 Alaskans are living with Alzheimer’s and that number is even higher if we include Alaskans living with other types of dementia.

As someone who was a caregiver to my mother, who we lost to Alzheimer’s after a 13-year battle, and as a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association, I understand first hand the importance of early detection and diagnosis. When my mom was starting to show signs of dementia, we hadn’t heard of the Alzheimer’s Association. We received an official diagnosis but we had no help, and neither did her provider.

Primary care providers are often the first clinicians with whom individuals discuss cognition concerns and improving their access to the latest dementia training is critical.

The bipartisan Acceleration Access to Dementia & Alzheimer’s Provider Training (AADAPT) Act (H.R. 7866/S. 4276) will empower primary care providers in Alaska to better diagnose Alzheimer’s and all other dementia and deliver high-quality, person-center care in our community.

Too often, overburdened primary care providers are unable to access the latest patient-centered dementia training. Through the use of Project ECHO, the AADAPT Act would provide video-conferencing Alzheimer’s and dementia training to more primary care providers. This training will increase their understanding of detection, diagnosis, care, and treatment of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

I wish I would have known back then what I do now. The resources and support available would have changed her life and ours. I am honored and a proud volunteer of the Alzheimer’s Association knowing what the Association is doing for all forms of dementia. Unfortunately, 60-80% of those cases are Alzheimer’s.

Please join me and the Alzheimer’s Association Alaska Chapter in encouraging Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Mary Peltola to support the AADAPT Act.

To learn more about this disease and how you can join the fight to end Alzheimer’s, visit alz.org.

Cindy Harris is a board member of the Alzheimer’s Association Alaska.