TRENTON – Legislation spearheaded by Senator Richard J. Codey to improve care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia and calling for increased funding for research advanced today in the Senate.
The legislative package includes a series of bills that would improve care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia at home and in hospitals in New Jersey, and a resolution calling on Congress to double federal Alzheimer’s research funding in fiscal year 2016 and to develop a plan through 2020 to increase funding to $2 billion annually.
“I watched as Alzheimer’s gripped my father’s life, and if I can do anything to spare others from experiencing that kind of devastation, I am committed to doing so,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex and Morris), who is leading the effort. “Alzheimer’s is a disease that merits our attention in New Jersey and nationally, not only because it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, but it is the only disease among the top ten causes without an effective means of prevention, treatment, or cure.”
Sponsored by Senator Codey and Senator Ronald L. Rice, the first bill (S-2959) would require healthcare professionals, at the time of taking a medical history or performing a physical examination of a patient admitted to an emergency room or hospital, to include a notation in the patient’s medical record if he or she has Alzheimer’s disease or related disorders. The notation is to be prominently displayed in the record.
The goal of this legislation is to assist in the effective care of patients, ensuring that all hospital staff who come into contact with individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s are aware of their condition and will treat them accordingly and with due consideration to their needs and risks.
“There are many challenges when caring for Alzheimer’s patients, especially in hospital settings, and alerting healthcare professionals of their condition upon admission can help prevent avoidable situations and better serve the needs of those who suffer the disease,” said Senator Codey. “This legislation affords patients the safety and level of care they deserve.”
Also sponsored by Senator Codey and Senator Rice, the second bill (S-2960) would amend current law to require the training of homemaker-home health aides in the specialized care of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. The training program would include the causes and progression of the disease and methods to deal with the specific problems encountered in the care of patients with Alzheimer’s. Specifically, this would include communication with patients, their psychological, social, and physical needs, and safety measures necessary for patients with Alzheimer’s or related dementia.
“Proper training is crucial in meeting the challenges of caring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. By requiring home health aides to have credentialed training, we can ensure that patients’ needs are adequately met and that the aides themselves are appropriately equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to carry on their day-to-day duties of caring for their patients,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex).
The third measure (S-2961), sponsored by Senator Codey and Senate Health Committee Chair Joseph F. Vitale, would clarify that Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders may be listed as a secondary cause of death on a death certificate when the deceased person had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and it is determined that Alzheimer’s was a significant contributing cause of his or her death.
“In order to better understand the disease and find more effective ways of prevention and treatment, it is important to accurately assess who is being affected and to what degree,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “Additionally, this data can help provide a more complete picture of the scale of the growing Alzheimer’s population and help shape future healthcare policy in New Jersey.”
It is estimated that 5.2 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.
Senator Codey also sponsored a resolution, SR-121, urging Congress to double Alzheimer’s research funding in fiscal year 2016 and to develop a plan for fiscal years 2017 through 2020 to increase funding to $2 billion annually to reach the national goal of effective treatment by 2025.
The National Plan for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias has set the ambitious goal of an effective treatment by 2025. The plan was derived through the work of 15 federal agencies and departments and leading scientists in the field. The required research funding to obtain this goal is $2 billion per year.
“Alzheimer’s is the costliest disease in the United States, surpassing cancer and heart disease. In fact, it costs over $200 billion of direct care, more than half of which are costs to the Medicare and Medicaid programs, placing an enormous financial strain on families, health care, and state and federal budgets,” added Senator Codey. “Investing in strong and sustained research now will help us save more in direct care costs in the long run,” added Senator Codey.
Currently, the National Institutes of Health annually spends about $6 billion on cancer research, $3 billion on HIV/AIDS research, and $2 billion on cardiovascular disease research. Funding for Alzheimer’s research is $600 million.
The bills were released from the Senate and now head to the Assembly for consideration.