Local advocates led by Jim O’Dell and Eric Thompson have been working over the last few years to educate state and federal lawmakers about dementia and encourage them to pass legislation to help people living with the disease. Jim and Eric are advocates that primarily interact with Rep. Mike Turner and his staff. All federal legislators across the country have constituent advocates like Jim and Eric assigned to help ensure the legislators remain informed about issues important to people with dementia. We also have advocates who regularly engage with state legislators. More than 40 of our volunteer advocates recently attended our annual Memory Day in Columbus on May 3 to meet with and educate legislators about the needs of 210,000 Ohioans living with dementia.
These advocates often represent the Alzheimer’s Association or our sister organization the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM), which has more latitude to engage politically on issues with legislators. Thanks to these advocates’ efforts and others like them, people living with dementia and their caregivers recently have a couple good reasons to be hopeful about the future.
In January 2017, Medicare implemented new reimbursement for medical professionals to perform care plans for people with cognitive impairment. This is completely new and in addition to reimbursement for the actual dementia diagnosis. We have been advocating for this since about 2007 and finally got it implemented after more than 350 members of Congress signed on as sponsors. Right now, we’re busy educating the healthcare community about this new opportunity for better care planning.
In May 2017, another legislative win occurred with the passage of the FY2017 continuing resolution budget, which included $400 million for Alzheimer’s research at the National Institutes of Health. While it’s a big important step, our nation’s investment in research for a cure or treatment is STILL less than 1 percent of what it takes to care for and treat people with Alzheimer’s. Our total research spend is about $1.4 billion but it costs almost $259 billion for treatment and care ($154 billion in Medicare and Medicaid alone, plus remainder out of pocket).
How to become an advocate
If you care about finding a treatment or a cure for Alzheimer’s consider volunteering to get involved in our advocacy efforts at the state and federal level. This is one of the most direct ways to have an impact on the funds that are available for research and care. Call 937-610-7004 or visit our website at ALZ.ORG/DAYTON. To learn more about our sister organization, Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, visit their website by clicking here.