Dear Editor:

It has been two "New Years" since my daddy passed away from Alzheimer's disease in October 2018. We miss our "Papaw" every day, but knowing that his suffering and mental confusion is over is a blessing.

Unfortunately, the suffering continues for many families in our community. Alzheimer's disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S., and there is no cure. There are currently 5.8 Americans living with this disease and more than 16 million Americans providing unpaid care for those with Alzheimer's and other dementias. In 2019, caring for individuals cost $290 billion including $195 billion in direct costs to Medicare and Medicaid.

But this vicious cycle can one day be broken by finding a cure for this terrible disease, and that takes research, and research takes money.

We commend Congress for the recent passage of the federal budget bill that includes $350 million for Alzheimer’s research as well as $10 million to fund Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act.

With Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias now recognized as a public health crisis, the BOLD Act was signed into law by the president on Dec. 31, 2018. This law directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to implement effective Alzheimer’s interventions through the public health system. The focus and funding will be placed on early detection and diagnosis, reducing risk, and preventing avoidable hospitalizations.

Presently, we are asking that our 10th district congressman, Jody Hice, sign on as a co-sponsor for house bill (H.R. 1873): Improving HOPE (Health, Outcomes, Planning, and Education) for Alzheimer’s Act.

As of Jan. 1, 2017, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (Medicare) allows reimbursement for clinicians (medical service providers) to provide comprehensive care planning for individuals diagnosed with dementia along with their caregiver using code 99483. Unfortunately, patients and medical providers were often unaware of this resource as fewer than 1 percent of seniors living with the disease received this care planning benefit in 2017.

The Improving HOPE (Health, Outcomes, Planning, and Education) for Alzheimer’s Act would focus on educating medical service providers on Alzheimer’s and dementia care planning services available through Medicare. Care planning is essential to learn about treatments, clinical trials, and support services available in the community. The Department of Health and Human Services will be required to report to Congress on provider outreach, use of code 99483, and any barriers Medicare beneficiaries encounter with care planning services.

Watching, firsthand, my mama caring for my daddy as he progressed through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease to his death, one can only imagine what a caregiver is faced with every moment of every day. Medical, physical, mental, and financial hurdles challenge caregivers to provide safe environments for their loved ones and to maintain their own health at the same time. It is a vicious cycle.

But we have an opportunity to come together to address this public health crisis that affects so many in our community. Our area Alzheimer's Association is sponsoring an Alzheimer's Community Forum at the Thomson/McDuffie County Government Complex, 210 Railroad Street, in Thomson on Tuesday, Jan. 28, from 10-11:30 a.m., to learn more about Alzheimer's, dementia, and memory loss.

Participants will have the opportunity to share thoughts and experiences within small groups to identify the challenges of this dreadful disease.

Light refreshments will be provided. All are welcome and are encouraged to register by calling 800-272-3900.

Sincerely,

Tammy Kay Brunson

Alzheimer's Association

GA Congressional District 10 Ambassador

Thomson, Georgia

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