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TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Richard J. Codey and Senator Ronald L. Rice to improve care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia today cleared its final legislative hurdle and now heads to the Governor’s desk.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and the only cause of death among the top ten that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed. It is also one of the costliest chronic diseases in the United States, costing an estimated $226 billion a year and expected to rise as high as $1.1 trillion by 2050.

“Patients with dementia related disorders have unique needs and present distinctive risks. Their condition must be known to the healthcare professionals responsible for their care so that they receive the appropriate attention they need,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex and Morris). “This can prevent avoidable situations like patients wandering from hospitals and endangering themselves. It’s common sense that we allow a patient’s medical record to reflect their condition to enable their effective care.”

The bill (S-377) would require a healthcare professional or appropriate staff member to include a notation in the patient’s medical record indicating that the patient has an increased risk of confusion, agitation, behavioral problems, and wandering due to a dementia related disorder, if such notation is requested by the patient’s caregiver. The notation may be included in the patient’s medical record at the time the patient is admitted to the hospital or to the hospital emergency department or when the patient is examined by a health care professional, and shall be prominently displayed in the medical record.

“Making hospital staff that come into contact with patients who have dementia related conditions aware of their condition will not only help ensure better care, but it give healthcare workers the information necessary to do their jobs in the best way they possibly can,” added Senator Rice (D-Essex).

It is estimated that 5.3 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. At the current pace, the number of individuals with the disease is expected to reach 16 million by 2050 in the United States and over 115 million globally. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there were approximately 170,000 senior citizens in New Jersey with Alzheimer’s in 2015, or about 12 percent of seniors.

The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 33-0; the Assembly approved it last month by a vote of 70-0.